National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker praised the Florida legislature and Governor for passing Senate Bill 344, a primary seatbelt law which requires all vehicle occupants to wear a seatbelt, according to an NTSB press release. This change in Florida’s seatbelt law, from a secondary enforcement law, allows law enforcement officers to stop vehicles and issue a ticket when motor vehicle occupants do not wear a seatbelt although no other offense has been committed.

From 1998 through 2007, more than 60 percent of the people killed in highway crashes in Florida were unrestrained. “Enactment and enforcement of this law will save lives,” Rosenker said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the national seatbelt use rate is 83 percent. Currently, Florida’s belt use rate is 81.7 percent. As a result, 948 lives a year are saved. However, if Florida raised its seatbelt use rate from its current level to the national use rate of 83 percent, an additional 23 lives would be saved in the state. Further, if Florida raised its seatbelt use rate to 100 percent, an additional 335 lives would be saved annually in Florida.

Primary enforcement has been on the Safety Board’s Most Wanted list of transportation safety improvements since 1998. Currently, 26 states and the District of Columbia have such laws.