At first glance, the latest findings from the Centers for Disease Control on truck drivers and safety may appear too obvious to mention, but a deeper look reveals some disturbing conclusions.
The report, "Vital Signs: Seat Belt Use Among Long-Haul Truck Drivers - United States, 2010" notes that federal regulations require drivers of large trucks to wear a seat belt. "But at least 35 percent of the truck drivers who died in 2012 were not wearing a seat belt."
No surprise there. All studies show that seat belts save lives, but the most telling findings of the study may be that drivers who don't wear seat belts also tended to engage in other unsafe or illegal driving activity. The report continues, "… results indicated that never using a seat belt while driving a truck was significantly associated with often driving ten or more mph over the speed limit... and receiving two or more moving violation tickets in the preceding 12 months." The report did not offer reasons why these correlations exist.
How pronounced is the no-seat belt issue? Findings from the survey suggest that about 14 percent of long haul truck drivers never or only sometimes use a seat belt. "This, coupled with the fact that 34.9 percent of LHTDs had been involved in at least one U.S. Department of Transportation recordable crash while working as an LHTD and 11.9 percent had been involved in two or more crashes, underscores the importance of wearing a seat belt."
The report explains why trucker don't wear seatbelts.
First, CDC researchers learned through the truckers they surveyed -- and using mathematical formulae to examine the association between seat belt non-use and risk factors – that never using seat belts was "significantly associated with the absence of a primary enforcement seat belt law in the LHTD's state of residence." When states added primary enforcement of seat belt laws, observed use for drivers of large trucks and buses increased a great deal - 48 percent in 2003 to 84 percent in 2013 - with similar findings for automobile drivers.
Second, the survey found a marked association between never using a seat belt and the absence of a written employer safety program. When companies stressed the importance of seat belt usage, drivers tended to comply. These safety programs not only increased seat belt use, but were found to increase overall safe driving.
Third, many drivers eschewed seat belts because of discomfort. "Previous studies identified personal choice and discomfort related to belt positioning, tightness, range of motion, and rubbing as primary reasons not to wear a seat belt. It was also reported that seat belts in trucks were uncomfortable for women and shorter drivers." The report added: "Improvements in belt design might help increase belt use among LHTDs, especially female truck drivers, who were shown in this survey to be more likely than males to never use a seat belt."
"We know that using a seat belt is the single most effective intervention to prevent injury or death in a motor vehicle crash," said CDC Principal Deputy Director Ileana Arias, in a prepared statement. “Employers and government agencies at all levels can help improve truck driver safety and increase seat belt use among truck drivers by having strong company safety programs and enforcing state and federal laws."