Risk of Ignoring Seat Belts: Insights from 2022 CMV Driver Fatalities

Trucking safety experts and regulators have long emphasized the dangers of not wearing seat belts. Unfortunately, the statistics show a grim outcome for those who ignore these warnings. Recent data reveals that nearly seven out of every ten truck drivers killed in crashes in 2022 were not wearing seat belts.

During the FMCSA’s annual research forum on April 24-25, it was highlighted that out of 916 truck drivers who died in crashes that year, 635, or 69.3%, were not using their seat belts, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System. This rate is the second highest since 2017, underscoring a persistent issue in driver safety compliance.

Jessica Powell, a statistician with the FMCSA’s crash data analytics division, noted, “We are analyzing this data to understand the ongoing trend of non-compliance and to develop strategies to reverse this worrying pattern.”

The FMCSA has consistently communicated the benefits of seat belt use. In a blog post, the agency explained, “In a crash, a seat belt secures the driver behind the steering wheel, helping maintain control while the vehicle absorbs and decelerates the impact. This reduces the severity of accidents. Lap-shoulder belts distribute crash forces across the body’s stronger areas, like the hips and shoulders, reducing injuries and the chance of the driver hitting the interior parts of the cab or other occupants.”

Regulations mandate seat belt use for truck drivers, and checking compliance is a standard part of CMV inspections, according to Adrienne Gildea, deputy executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. FMCSA’s regulation (Section 392.16) explicitly requires drivers to use seat belts whenever driving a CMV equipped with them.

John Sova, a CVSA roadside inspection specialist, observed that some drivers only buckle up as they approach an inspection site. “It’s surprising how many are accustomed to not wearing their seat belts that they forget even when pulling into an inspection station,” he said.

Others, however, consciously choose to ignore this safety measure. “I can’t fathom why a driver would choose not to wear a seat belt,” said Gildea. She speculated that unfamiliarity with industry norms among new drivers might contribute to this risky behavior.

The FMCSA likens neglecting to wear a seat belt to refusing a free insurance policy. To combat common misconceptions, the agency and groups like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have identified several myths about seat belt usage, including:

  • Personal Choice Myth: Believing that wearing a seat belt is a personal decision that doesn’t impact others.
  • Escape Myth: Thinking that seat belts hinder escape from a burning or submerged vehicle.
  • Protection Myth: Assuming the large size of a truck eliminates the need for seat belts.
  • Speed Myth: Believing that seat belts are unnecessary at lower speeds.
  • Skill Myth: Claiming that skilled drivers don’t need seat belts.
  • Convenience Myth: Arguing that fastening a seat belt many times a day is too time-consuming.
  • Ejection Myth: Believing it’s safer to be thrown from the vehicle in a crash.

These misconceptions contribute to the high rate of fatalities among drivers who neglect this crucial safety step. Addressing these myths and improving compliance can significantly enhance road safety for truck drivers and the broader public.


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