Modeling the impact of rescinding Michigan’s primary and secondary seatbelt laws on death and injury from passenger vehicle crashes
Authors: Patrick M. Carter, Carol A. C. Flannagan, C. Raymond Bingham, Rebecca M. Cunningham, Jonathan D. Rupp
Seatbelts are the most effective method of decreasing fatal and non-fatal motor vehicle crash injury. Advocacy groups have recently been successful enacting repeals of mandatory motorcycle helmet laws in several states. In some states, this has prompted renewed efforts aimed at repealing mandatory seatbelt laws. Purpose: To evaluate and quantify the potential impact of rescinding seatbelt laws on annual crash related fatalities, non-fatal injuries and associated economic costs, using Michigan as a model, to inform the national debate. Methods: Proportional injury rates were calculated utilizing police-reported statewide passenger vehicle crash data from 1999 and 2002, where belt use rates approximate estimates associated with repeal of primary and secondary seatbelt laws. Proportional rates were applied to the most recent year of crash data (2011) to estimate changes in statewide fatalities and non-fatal injuries. National cost estimates were applied to injury data to calculate associated economic cost. Results: Full repeal of the seatbelt law is estimated to result in an additional 163 fatalities, 13,722 non-fatal injuries and an associated societal cost of $1.6 billion annually. Repeal of the primary seatbelt law only is estimated to result in an additional 95 fatalities, 9,156 non-fatal injuries and an associated societal cost of $1.0 billion annually. Conclusions: This analysis suggests that repealing the either the primary or full seatbelt law would have a substantial and negative impact on public health, increasing motor vehicle crash related fatality, non-fatal injury and associated economic costs.