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Research & Data

Occupant Protection

Seat belt use is one of the most effective ways to save lives and reduce injuries in motor vehicle crashes, protecting drivers and all passengers. New York’s seat belt law was first implemented on December 1, 1984. Amendments to the original law expanded the requirements of restraint use. As of November 1, 2020, New York State requires all occupants to buckle up in any seating position in the vehicle. A data-driven approach has been used to improve New York’s occupant protection program.

occupant protection research - seatbelts

Research Notes & Reports

Evaluation of New York’s Universal Seat Belt Law

occupant protection - putting on seatbeltNew York’s seat belt law, first implemented on December 1, 1984, was expanded to require universal coverage of all motor vehicle occupants on November 1, 2020. Prior to this date, passengers 16 years of age and older riding in the rear seat were exempt from the state’s seat belt law. To determine the effect of the seat belt law expansion on seat belt use compliance, the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) has funded the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR) to conduct a study on the effect of the law expansion on the restraint use of rear-seat adult passengers in fatal and personal injury (F&PI) crashes.

Key Findings

  • In the period after the law expansion (November 2020 – December 2021), 92% of the rear-seat adult passengers were restrained at the time of the crash, up from 88% in the pre-law period (January 2018 – October 2020).
  • The law expansion increased the seat belt use rate of rear-seat adult passengers in F&PI crashes by 2 percentage points in the first post-law month and by almost 6 percentage points in the last post-law month.
  • The law expansion had a positive, if not larger, impact on the restraint use of rear-seat adult passengers traveling at night, with a young driver, and in a speeding vehicle.
  • Only 79% of rear-seat adult passengers in a speeding vehicle were restrained at the time of the crash in the post-law period.
(Published January 2023)
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Discover more data in the Traffic Safety Statistical Repository (TSSR)

Developed to provide broader access to New York’s traffic safety data, the TSSR contains motor vehicle crash data obtained from the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Accident Information System (AIS) over the past 10 years, including preliminary data for the current year.