The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released a report on safety belt usage in the United States, and the results are encouraging. Since 1994, seat belt usage has increased from 58 percent to 80 percent, and in the last two years alone, the percentage has risen 5 points. The study also serves as an ad hoc report card for states, showing which states are doing well, which ones not so well, and states that have shown the most improvement since last year.
To borrow a joke from Margaret Cho, it's nice to see that NHTSA has provided us with a map to where all the stupid people are. Just kidding. In all seriousness, the report finds that, generally speaking, stronger police enforcement and higher penalties mean a larger percentage of the folks studied wear their seatbelts. Hawaii, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Michigan, California, Puerto Rico and Maryland topped the charts as having an average of more than 90 percent of their drivers wearing a seat belt. Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachussets (really?), South Carolina and South Dakota all scrape the bottom of the barrel, scoring in the 60s. Mississippi receives the distinction of being #1 in non-usage.
Thanks to Damon for the tip.