There is significant evidence that wearing a seatbelt dramatically reduces the risk of fatality in car crashes. Since 1985, all U.S. states have mandated the use of infant seats and car seats for young children. Nearly all U.S. states have legislation pertaining to adults, but the specific enforcement of these laws varies among states. In some states, an adult not wearing a seatbelt is a primary offense, while in others it is a secondary offense.
New Hampshire is the only state that does not require adults to wear seat belts in a motor vehicle. On a related note, there are three states that do not require motorcycle helmets: New Hampshire, Illinois and Iowa.
For some, it may be difficult to understand the arguments of states without seatbelt laws. Essentially, the argument of such states comes down not to a dispute as to whether it’s safer to use seatbelts, but instead the reasoning tends to hinge on the concept of free choice. Some citizens are concerned that requiring seatbelts infringes on personal freedom and that the states that do not require seatbelts are merely asserting the rights of individual citizens to make their own choices. Those who argue against requiring seatbelts may say that sometimes personal responsibility has to be legislated in order to protect citizens.
Statistics show that the fatality rates in car accidents are highest on rural roads in the states that don't make drivers and passengers to wear their seatbelts. In contrast, accident fatality rates are lower in states that require strapping oneself in with a seatbelt. Still, many people ignore seatbelt laws, potentially making enforcement of seatbelt laws difficult to enforce.
Supporters of seatbelt laws may be concerned not only with seatbelt laws affecting passenger cars but school buses and public transportation as well. Policies affecting these modes of transportation is changing in many states which are moving towards the requirement that new buses feature seatbelts and that student passengers buckle up. For some parents, this change isn't occurring fast enough. Hesitation on the issue may be less about personal freedom and more about simple economics — installing seat belts on buses can be costly. Many parents counter, however, that there is no expense too great where the lives of children are concerned.