KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Pickup trucks are popular in Tennessee but buckling up in them
isn’t, a University of Tennessee survey shows.
In a study funded by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, UT-Knoxville’s
Transportation Center found more than 60 percent of drivers and passengers in cars, sport utility
vehicles and vans use safety belts. Fewer than 40 percent of those in trucks buckle up.
Dr. Steve Richards, the center’s executive director who headed the study, said the age of
the trucks and where they are driven may contribute to the lower usage.
”Safety belt usage tends to be much lower on secondary highways in rural areas, and that’s where
pickup trucks are most common,” Richards said.
”Also, the older a vehicle is the lower the belt usage, and pickup trucks are generally the
oldest group of vehicles on the road. Some have no belts, or the belts are less convenient, less
comfortable or do not work.”
The study included 113,405 motorists at 440 sites in 16 counties, Richards said. It is the
first to count vehicle types other than cars since official surveys began in 1986, he said.
Tennessee has 6.2 million registered vehicles, including more than three million cars and
about 1.1 million pickup trucks. The rest are buses, vans, sport utility vehicles and motorcycles,
according to State Department of Transportation statistics.
Tennessee Transportation Commissioner Bruce Saltsman said state laws and highway
safety programs have dramatically increased safety belt usage.
“The state has come a long way since seat belt laws were passed in 1986 and usage was
only 14 percent,” Saltsman said. ”This has saved lives on interstate highways and urban streets
where safety belts are especially important.
“We will continue educating the public through the Governor’s Highway Safety program
and enforcing laws to increase safety belt usage in all types of vehicles and help save lives.”
The UT study also found:
— Overall belt use was 60 percent in Davidson County; 71 percent in Knox; 60 percent in
Hamilton and 54 percent in Shelby.
— Overall statewide belt use was almost 57 percent.
— Anderson County had the highest safety belt usage of all 16 counties surveyed at 76
percent. Lawrence County had the lowest at 34 percent.