Car Industry

How are only 90 percent of drivers using seat belts?!

The pool of potential Darwin Award recipients is larger than we originally thought.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

"Click it or ticket" isn't resonating with everyone, which is somewhat surprising.

Ullstein Bild/Getty Images

I don't even know how to sugarcoat this -- if you're not using your seat belt in a car, you're dumb. In a sliver of good news from the federal government, it appears the number of dummies in our midst is at a record low, though it's still alarmingly high.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) just released data from a large-scale observational study, and it claims that approximately 90.1 percent of drivers and passengers use their seat belts during daylight hours. This is up from 2015's observed 88.5 percent.

Broken down by region, seat belt use is higher on the west end of the US than out east. It's also higher in states with seat belt laws on the books. 34 states and federated territories have primary laws to this end, with another 15 having secondary laws. Seat belt use also rose in 2016 for rural drivers and SUV drivers.

Some drivers have reasons for avoiding seat belts -- ranging from a lack of comfort to my personal favorite, "freedom" -- but none of those reasons are good ones. Seat belts save lives, plain and simple -- some 14,000 this year alone, and nearly half a million since 1975. Physics can be a cruel mistress in a 4,000-pound metal box traveling at 55 mph, and you can't rely on forward collision warning and airbags alone. Hell, airbags aren't even meant to be used without a belted occupant.