New Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) data shows 78 percent of commercial bus and truck drivers wore safety belts while operating behind the wheel in 2010, compared to 74 percent in 2009.
"Safety is our number one priority," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "The rise in seat belt use by commercial drivers is good news, but we will not rest until all drivers are buckling up when they drive."
According to FMCSA's Safety Belt Usage by Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Survey, the number of commercial drivers that are wearing safety belts has increased by 14 percent since 2007. The 2010 survey observed 26,830 commercial drivers operating medium- to heavy-duty trucks and buses at 998 roadside sites nationwide.
The survey found that safety belt use for commercial drivers and their occupants was higher, at 80 percent, in states where law enforcement may stop drivers for not wearing a safety belt, versus 72 percent in states with weaker secondary enforcement belt use laws.
A regional breakdown showed that safety belt use rates for commercial drivers and their occupants were highest in the West, at 82 percent, compared with 79 percent in the South, 73 percent in the Midwest and 69 percent in the Northeast.
The new survey findings were released as FMCSA unveiled the two grand prize winners of this year's "Be Ready. Be Buckled." art contest, which encourages students nationwide to create posters urging commercial drivers to use their safety belts. The winners are Darby Kim, a second grader from Colin L. Powell Elementary School in Centreville, Va., and Lucia Choi, a fourth grader from James Madison Intermediate School in Edison, N.J.
The contest is sponsored by the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Belt Partnership, which includes FMCSA and over 20 other government agencies and organizations.
The winning entries will be on display at the U.S. DOT Headquarters Building in Washington, D.C. and FMCSA will publish a "Be Ready. Be Buckled." 2012 calendar featuring artwork from this year's contestants.
"Commercial drivers owe it to themselves, their families and everyone on our roads to wear a safety belt," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "We are grateful to the drivers who buckle up, and we salute our student contest winners for spreading their lifesaving message."
To obtain the executive summary for the 2010 Safety Belt Usage by Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Survey, or view the artwork from this year's "Be Ready. Be Buckled." contest grand prize winners, visit the FMCSA website.