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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah drivers and their passengers use their seat belts at a rate higher than the national average, a new federal study says.
About 87 percent of Utahns regularly buckle up. Nationally, 82 percent of drivers and passengers do, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation study issued Friday. Utah placed 11th overall in the rankings.
"We're pleased with the numbers," said Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Wade Breur. "However, we know that there's more to be done with seat belts. The work's not done until there's 100 percent total compliance."
Seat belt usage rose in 34 states, including Utah, this year, the study shows.
"It's good to see more people taking their safety seriously, but we'll save the celebration for the day when everyone buckles up," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta.
Mississippi reported the lowest usage rate at about 61 percent. Hawaii scored the highest, with 95.3 percent of drivers and their passengers buckling up.
Seat belt use is a secondary law in Utah, meaning that police can't stop an adult driver for not wearing a safety belt, although a driver can be ticketed when stopped for another infraction.
With a national usage rate of 82 percent, federal transportation officials estimate that seat belts annually prevent 15,700 fatalities, 350,000 serious injuries and some $67 billion in economic costs related to traffic injuries and deaths.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)