Missouri below average in seat belt use

Missouri's seat belt use percentage is below the national average.

New numbers released from the Missouri Department of Transportation show that Missouri's percentage of seat belt users is below the national average.

According to MoDOT, seat belt use in Missouri is around 79 percent, compared to the national average of 85 percent.

The Missouri number comes from a statewide survey about two weeks after the annual "Click it or Ticket" campaign this past spring.

Scott Jones, a MoDOT Senior System Management Specialist in the Traffic and Highway Safety Division, said the lower usage could be because Missouri's seat belt law is a secondary law, not primary.

That means that a driver would have to be cited for a different traffic violation in order to tack on the seat belt violation.

Jones said making it a primary law could increase seat belt use.

"What we've seen from most other states, after they've passed the law within a few years they may jump as much as nine or 10 percentage points in their usage just from voluntary compliance after passing that," he said.

Teen seat belt use in Missouri increased one percent from 66 percent last year to 67 percent this year.

Jones called the increase progress, but noted that teens are "[their] toughest crowd."