PhotoCars on American highways are safer than they have ever been. Even so, there are more than 35,000 traffic fatalities each year.

Safety advocates say there would be a lot more, if not for features like anti-locking brakes, multiple airbags (the non-exploding kind), and seat belts. But of the three, seat belts provide no protection unless the occupants of the vehicle buckle up.

A new study finds growing resistance to seat belt usage, especially among younger consumers. The study, published on the website, surveyed 2,000 people about their seat belt usage.

'Live Free or Die'

It found there is a definite geographic divide when it comes to seat belts. New Hampshire, whose state motto, ironically, is “Live Free or Die,” is the state with the lowest percentage of seat belt usage. It's followed by states with miles of straight, open roads – South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.

PhotoThe states with the highest percentage of consumers buckling up are California, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, North Carolina, and Maryland.

Age also makes a difference. The older you are, the more likely you are to buckle up. Among those 55 and older, more than 89% say they always wear a seat belt in the car. Among those 18 to 34, the percentage falls to just under 82%. The Millennial age group also had the largest percentage of “sometimes,” “seldom,” or “never” answers when it came to wearing their seat belts in the car.

Young drivers more at risk

“Unfortunately, drivers between the ages of 15 and 19 are most likely to be distracted while driving and to be unrestrained in fatal accidents,” the authors write.

Despite laws in most states now requiring vehicle occupants to wear seat belts, the survey uncovered significant resistance. Twenty-eight percent of men and nearly 22% of women said there should not be laws requiring seat belt use, that it should be an individual choice. Nearly 26% of older Millennials expressed that view.

The authors note that since mandatory seat belt laws were introduced, traffic fatalities have declined. They note vehicle occupant deaths in 2014 were the lowest in over 20 years.

According to, New Hampshire, the state with the highest seat belt resistance, had 128 traffic fatalities per 100,000 population in 2010. Neighboring Vermont, which has a mandatory seat belt law, had 71.

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