WASHINGTON — The government estimated yesterday that 45 million Americans are not buckling up in their cars, a habit that factors into thousands of highway deaths every year.
The Transportation Department released its estimate of seat belt use as it kicked off the annual “Click It or Ticket’’ campaign. The department said 84 percent of motorists wore their seat belts in 2009, a record, but that still left millions of unbelted Americans on the nation’s roads. Eighty-three percent were buckled up in 2008.
Massachusetts, which had the worst seat belt rate of 66.8 percent in 2008, showed the largest improvement among states; its belt rate rose to 73.6 percent.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said an average of 38 unbelted people a day are killed in motor vehicle crashes. In 2008, nearly 14,000 motorists not wearing seat belts were killed in motor vehicle crashes. Half could have been saved if they had buckled up, he said.
Wyoming had the lowest rate in the nation with 67.6 percent, followed by New Hampshire with 68.9 percent.