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Claims News Service, Dec. 19, 3:42 p.m. EST — More Americans than ever are wearing their safety belts with usage rates climbing in 34 states this year, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta. In 2005, safety belt use ranged from 60.8 percent in Mississippi to 95.3 percent in Hawaii. Others breaking the 90 percent belt use barrier included Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Michigan, California, Puerto Rico and Maryland. Mississippi registered the lowest safety belt use in the nation followed by Massachusetts, Kentucky, Arkansas, South Dakota and Kansas. New Hampshire and Wyoming were the only states not to report statistically reliable estimates of belt use rate for 2005.Earlier this year, Secretary Mineta announced that the nationwide survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed belt use rates have hit the milestone of 82 percent — the highest level in the nation’s history. Secretary Mineta also announced earlier that fatalities had hit a historic low: 1.46 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT).At a rate of 82 percent, NHTSA estimates that safety belts are preventing 15,700 fatalities, 350,000 serious injuries, and $67 billion in economic costs associated with traffic injuries and deaths every year.The state-by-state statistics were derived from data collected by the states’ own surveys, conducted in accord with criteria established by NHTSA.

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