FLORIDA — Nearly one in five drivers reported having driven in the last 30 days without wearing a seat belt, according to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Twenty-eight states have seat belt laws covering all passengers, but Florida is not one of those states. Florida ranks second in the nation in unrestricted passenger fatalities with 510, according to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
AAA said the behavior happens despite nearly 90 percent of drivers viewing driving without a seat belt as unacceptable. The study showed seat belt use has increased nationwide, but a 9 percent gap remains between front seat belt use and rear seat belt use.
More than 21,000 people lost their lives in vehicle accidents and AAA said some could have been prevented if passengers had been wearing seat belts. Rear seat passengers are three times more likely to die in a crash if they are unbuckled, according to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.
"Unfortunately, many passengers will not change their behavior unless there is a legal consequence," AAA public policy manager Karen Morgan said. "Because of this attitude, the easiest and most cost effective way to save lives and prevent injuries is to improve the current seat belt law to cover all vehicle occupants."
The study estimated that from 1975 to 2014, seat belts have saved 330,507 lives nationwide. If all passengers had worn a seat belt during those years, more than 700,000 could have been saved, according to NHTSA.