Teenage drivers are the least likely group of drivers to use seat belts, according to a new survey.

In a digital world, it is the most “analog” of devices that will save your life: a seat belt. It’s common sense to get in and buckle up; however, the digital generation, Gen Z, are the least likely of driving age groups to strap themselves in when driving.

According to a recent national survey of drivers by Erie Insurance, just 77% of Gen Z drivers — the age group most likely to get in and die from a car accident — buckle up. As drivers get older, they are more likely to use seat belts: 81% of millennials use them, 87% of Gen Xers and 94% of Baby Boomers make sure to buckle up every time they get in a car.

This isn’t just posturing, but based on hard evidence. In 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the use of seat belts in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 14,668 lives of occupants ages 5 and older. Many Americans understand the lifesaving value of the seat belt – the national use rate is at 90.1% – but nearly 27.5 million people still don’t buckle up.

Drivers across the country are going to get a steady set of reminders in the weeks ahead as the Click It or Ticket campaign goes into effect from May 14–June 3. According to NHTSA data, which was collected from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, 37,461 lives were lost on U.S. roads in 2016, an increase of 5.6% from calendar year 2015.

(Safety groups join forces, push for traffic safety reforms. Click Here for the story.)

The latest round of Click It or Ticket ad will soon start appearing, aiming to get younger drivers to buckle up each time they drive.

The number of vehicle miles traveled on U.S. roads in 2016 increased by 2.2%, and resulted in a fatality rate of 1.18 deaths per 100 million VMT – a 2.6% increase from the previous year.

According to NHTSA, The consequences of not wearing, or improperly wearing, a seat belt are clear:

  • Buckling up helps keep you safe and secure inside your vehicle, whereas not buckling up can result in being totally ejected from the vehicle in a crash, which is almost always deadly.
  • Air bags are not enough to protect you; in fact, the force of an air bag can seriously injure or even kill you if you’re not buckled up.
  • Improperly wearing a seat belt, such as putting the strap below your arm, puts you and your children at risk in a crash.

The reticence of the latest generation of drivers is disappointing given the massive efforts to get the most senior generation – Baby Boomers – to use seat belts once they were mandated on vehicles and seat belt laws were subsequently put in place.

(Click Here for detail about how driver assistance tech saves lives.)

Blind spot systems have become increasingly common on new vehicles but aren't a solution for not using seat belt.

“Whether you’re a driver or passenger, in the front seat or back, the simple act of wearing a seat belt significantly reduces the risk of fatality and major injury in a crash,” said former U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Surprisingly, the most “techie” issue facing drivers these days – texting while driving – is not most often done or approved by Gen Z. First and foremost, the survey revealed 6% of drivers believe texting and driving is “not a big deal; I do it all the time.” Additionally nearly a third of drivers (31%) believe that texting is ok to do when they feel it’s safe.

Here’s how participants in each generation answered this question:

  • Millennials: 44% said it’s ok to do when it’s safe
  • Gen Z: 40% in this age group thought it was ok
  • Gen X: 35% felt they could text and drive when it was safe
  • Baby Boomers: at 13%, this age group was the least likely to text and drive when they felt it was safe.

(Government panel wants to lower the drunk driving threshold. Click Here for the story.)

Another alarming fact: 28% of Gen Z drivers thought it was ok to text and drive before they actually started driving. This number jumped to 40% when we asked Gen Z drivers who were already on the road.

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