Motor Vehicle & Seat Belt Safety

Motor vehicle crashes represent the number one cause of unintentional injury, the leading cause of death for Montanans age 1 to 44. Nearly three out of every four motor vehicle occupants killed in crashes every year are unrestrained at the time of the crash (MT DOT Problem Identification 2009) and those who are not killed sustain more severe injuries than restrained occupants. These preventable injuries not only result in life-long disability, they also cost Montanans over $14 million dollars in hospital care that is uncompensated or paid by Medicaid (Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, 2009).


Seat Belt


Seat Belt Awareness

Montana’s seat belt usage is lower than the national average
  • 69.1% of Montanans reported always wearing a seat belt when riding or driving in a vehicle which is lower than the US average of 85%.
  • Montana is also behind neighboring states Idaho and Washington which report a higher use (77%, 92% respectively).
Seat belts are a highly effective way to save lives
  • Seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect occupants from being ejected or from being violently tossed around inside the vehicle during a crash.
  • Montana has the second highest traumatic brain injury death rate in the US and the leading cause of TBI fatalities and injuries in our state are from motor vehicle crashes. Being tossed around inside a vehicle or ejected significantly increases the risk for a TBI.
  • Montana teen self-reported seat belt use is much lower than other age groups. 56% of drivers and 41% of passengers report always wearing a seat belt. Combining the low seat belt usage rate with a lack of driving experience is a major reason why traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for young people in Montana.
Lack of seat belt use is costing all Montanans a lot of money
  • Drivers and passengers who are hurt or killed in a motor vehicle crash because they were ejected, partially ejected, or thrown around inside a vehicle from not being buckled up create a tremendous financial burden on Montana citizens. Research shows that on average, those injured pay for only 26% of the total healthcare costs. The remaining amount is paid for by society through higher insurance rates and public assistance programs funded with tax revenue.
  • On average, Montana spends $14 million dollars in Medicaid and uncompensated care for unrestrained motor vehicle occupant inpatient hospital charges.
We need to increase seat belt use in Montana

Each year, the majority of MVC occupants killed or seriously injured in crashes are unrestrained (MT DOT 2010). Strikingly, the leading cause of death or serious injury for Montana teens is motor vehicle crashes. By ensuring seat belt use for all motor vehicle occupants, we will lower costs, reduce injury and most important, save lives. 

How To Get Involved

We need your help. Talk with others about this issue.

Injury Prevention, safety advocates, parents, teachers and interested individuals are encouraged to help reinforce the norms that seat belts are important and save lives.