Safety Belt Use in Northeast Florida

Florida’s statewide safety belt use rate for 2023 is 89.4 percent, an improvement from the 2022 result of 88.3 percent. This annual statewide survey is primarily designed to provide a single safety belt usage estimate for the entire State of Florida, not official county rates. However, these rates are still helpful as they can serve as reference points for changes between years.

Out of the three counties surveyed in our 18-county district, the total number of Observed Front-Seat Occupants, including drivers and passengers, was 5,413.

2023 Survey Results for Safety Belt Use in Northeast Florida

  • Alachua County 90.6% (down from 90.8% in 2022 and 95% in 2021)
  • Duval County 86.2% (down from 87.5% in 2022 and 87.3% in 2021)
  • St Johns County 89.3% (up from 86.6% in 2022 and down from 92.1% in 2021)

Notably, the sites used in the 2022 and 2023 surveys differed from previous years, potentially influencing the shift in survey numbers. Alachua and St. Johns yielded their lowest usage over the five measurements in the survey for the years 2017 through 2022. Some decreases could be due to the different areas where new sites are located.

Despite the year-to-year decrease, safety belt usage generally shows an upward trend. However, the recent pullback does indicate that occupant protection programs should still seek to increase safety belt usage among the disproportionately low-use groups identified in this survey.

Occupant Protection Messages in Response to Low Usage Rates

The low safety belt usage groups identified include pickup truck occupants, male passengers, occupants between the ages of 16-34, and black occupants.

Occupants Ages 16-34: Be Savvy… Buckle Up
Occupants in Pickups: Buckle Up in Your Truck

Additional Occupant Protection Tips, Information, and Resources

  • Wear your seat belt for every ride.
  • Buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash.
  • Secure children in a proper child safety seat.
  • Safety belt use isn’t just a good idea; IT’S THE LAW.

The Traffic Safety Team provides a variety of occupant protection materials:

Safety Belt Law History

In 1986, Florida implemented its first adult safety belt law. Safety belt use before the law was at 22% statewide. From 1999 to 2004, Florida’s use rate increased from 59% to just over 76% due to FDOT’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign and other efforts across the state. In 2009, Florida passed a primary enforcement safety belt bill, and safety belt use has increased since the law’s passage. Working together, we can continue to increase safety belt use and reduce fatalities and injuries on our roadways.

“Always Buckle Up … for Your Family. For Yourself. For LIFE.” 
No Regrets When You BUCKLE UP!

Read more: Safety Belt Use in Northeast Florida

Survey Results in 2021 for Safety Belt Use in Northeast Florida and Statewide

According to the 2021 survey by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), statewide use of safety belts increased slightly, from 89.8% in 2019 to 90.1% in 2021. Of the 18 counties in FDOT District Two, three were surveyed in 2021. Safety belt use in Northeast Florida increased in two out of the three counties surveyed. We are proud of both Alachua (95%) and St. Johns (92.1%) for making the list of high-usage counties!

Survey Results and Trends

Florida’s 2021 survey results show safety belt use differed by road type. Motorists on higher speed roads are buckling up more, while usage on local, lower speed roads are least likely buckled up. The highest use of safety belts was on interstate highways, at 93.1%, followed by principal arterials at 91.9%. The lowest usage was on local roads, at 87.6%, and minor arterials at 87.3%.

Safety belt usage also differed by vehicle type. Occupants in pickup trucks have exhibited lower usage than those in other vehicle types every year of the survey. SUV occupants frequently used their safety belts at 93.7%, car occupants at 90%, van occupants at 89.9%, and pickup occupants at 81.6%.

Survey results consistently indicated that females were more likely to wear a safety belt every year. In 2021, 92.9% of females buckled up, versus men, at 87.6%.

Occupants ages 35–39 buckled up 91.8% of the time, and those ages 16–34 buckled up the least, at 88.7%. Prior surveys show a similar pattern in usage among age groups. 

Overall, safety belt usage has shown an upward trend over time. The 2021 results indicate progress in use among occupants traveling on higher-speed roadways and certain types of vehicles (SUVs). Results also indicate where improvement is still needed among the low belt use groups, including occupants of pickup trucks, black occupants, and occupants traveling on lower-speed roadways.

FDOT State Safety Office administered the annual survey. State survey sites and locations were based on recent traffic fatality counts in 15 Florida counties. Click here to view the Safety Belt Use in Florida 2021 Final Report. (Note: No survey was conducted in 2020.)


Alachua County Safety Belt Use Rates Highest in Florida in 2021

Congratulations, Alachua County, for having the highest usage rates in the state again! Survey results showed that Alachua equaled its highest-ever use rates, at 95.0%, and ranked #1 overall statewide. Alachua has been a long-time winner with buckling up. We are proud of Alachua for consistently remaining at the top of usage rates in Florida.  

St. Johns County Rates High in Safety Belt Use in 2021

Kudos to St. Johns County for maintaining an above-average usage rate. St. Johns came in at the fifth-highest county in the state with a 92.1% safety belt use rate (a tie with Lee County). Since 2018, St. Johns has rated over 90% safety belt use.

Duval County Safety Belt Use Needs Improvement

We have work to do in Duval County! Of the 2021 counties surveyed, Duval ranked the secondlowest safety belt use rate in the state, at 87.3% (followed only by Volusia at 84.%). Plans are for extensive efforts to provide resources, tools, and support to Duval County by educating others on the importance of buckling up. The FDOT District Two Community Traffic Safety Program (CTSP) has many occupant protection resources on its website and social media platforms.

Buckle Up and Slow Down

Hey Guys, Slow Down! There is an over-representation of fatality and injury crashes with young men, ages 18–24, in Northeast Florida rural counties caused by speeding and lower safety belt usage. We aim to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries by increasing safety belt usage and reducing excessive speeding.

We want young male drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 to change how they think about speeding and realize it’s not worth the risk to their life or future. After interviewing this target audience in Northeast Florida, we established better insight into some barriers and behavioral determinants of excessive speeding. We found they drove excessively higher speeds than the posted limits more often on rural roadways.

Rural Buckle Up and Slow Down poster and banner
Click here to download a printable version of our Buckle Up and Slow Down poster.

To help change this behavior, we have created a new safety message. The core idea is to save your life and protect your future. We need community outreach and connection to encourage slowing down and making driving safe the norm. Our new materials have country-styled belt buckles that say “Buckle-Up” and “Slow Down” with the message: Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride… safely to reach your destiny. We want young male drivers to feel it’s okay not to be the fastest on the road. 

Buckle Up and Slow Down

Help make buckling up the social norm and driving at safe speeds part of our safety culture. Please download and share our Buckle Up and Slow Down printable POSTER and square social media GRAPHIC. You may print this flyer as a handout tip card, include it in an email or newsletter, or post it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us on Facebook and Instagram @trafficsafetyteam and on Twitter and LinkedIn @trafficsafetyfl and hashtag #SlowDownFL #BuckleUpFL #TrafficSafetyFL

speeding, aggressive drivers, occupant protection, Country Buckle Up Belt and Slow Down Belt Buckle

Slow Down – District Two Market Research

Levy and Suwannee are two counties in Northeast Florida with a population under 44,000. Comparing these counties with other similarly sized counties in Florida, they are ranked most problematic (#1 and #3) in the issues of both speed and teen drivers per the FY2024 Highway Safety Matrix.

Examples of why speeding among young male drivers on rural roads is a problem include:

  • Limited law enforcement presence
  • Roadway characteristics – curvature, grade, width, and adjacent land use
  • Delayed EMS response times
  • Pickup trucks are more likely to roll over, especially when significantly altered/lifted; they are top-heavy

Formative data:

  • NHTSA 2020 Speeding Traffic Safety Facts – Thirty-five percent of male drivers in the 15- to 20-year-old age group involved in fatal crashes in 2020 were speeding, the highest among the age groups.
  • GHSA Teens and Speeding – from 2015 to 2019, teen drivers and passengers (16 – 19 years of age) had a greater proportion of speeding-related fatalities (43%) than all other age groups. Men were almost twice as likely as women to say that they drove at extreme speeds much more often than normal. 
  • Speeding-related teen driver fatal crashes – the driver is more likely to be male (37% vs. 28%), have run off the road or rolled over the vehicle, and to be unbelted.
  • Male drivers in every age group account for the greatest proportion of fatal crashes involving speeding.
  • NTSB – The relationship between speed and injury severity is consistent and direct. 
  • NHTSA – Drivers classified as speeders were almost three times as likely as sometime speeders to strongly agree with the statements, “I often get impatient with slower drivers” (45% versus 18%), “I enjoy the feeling of driving fast” (19% versus 6%), and “I try to get where I am going as fast as I can” (11% versus 3%).

Insight – Younger male drivers enjoy excessive speeding in rural areas without regard to safety or the law. Barriers and behavioral determinants:

  • Entitlement (the belief that their need to reach a destination is more important/deserving, ‘own the road.’)
  • Personable responsibility and self-protection
  • Driving over the speed limit is not dangerous for skilled drivers (male dominant attitude)
  • Hustle mentality
  • Traveling with the flow of traffic (everyone speeds)
  • Enjoy driving faster (extreme risks feel exciting, adrenaline rush)
  • Not predetermined, in-the-moment decisions to speed

Other materials, information, and resources available on our website about occupant protection, speeding, and driving tips for teens:

Buckle Up Buddy Heart

Sweetheart Craft for Valentine’s Day

Check out our cute Buckle Up Buddy Heart and bring some safety fun into Valentine’s Day. It’s time to get crafty with the kiddos (or for those of us who are just a kid at heart). Don’t be afraid of pink and red, hearts, and even glitter. This is a unique Valentine’s holiday craft with a simple traffic safety message.

Buckle Up Buddy Heart Artwork
Make your own Buckle Up Buddy Heart Valentine!

You and your family or school class can make these easy Buckle Up Buddy Hearts. The arms and legs bounce and jiggle… make us smile and want to giggle while remembering the importance of buckling up!

This is a cute DIY craft for any time of year. Kids can make a Buckle Up Buddy Heart for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or as a birthday card. In addition to being a fun art project, it also sends a positive traffic safety message. Occupant protection is always a primary concern. All drivers and passengers should be properly restrained with a lap and shoulder seat belt, and children should be correctly strapped into the right car seat that fits their size.

Download this free printable Buckle Up Buddy Heart Valentine craft sheet and follow the instructions. 

Buckle Up Buddy Heart – Valentine Craft
Template by Northeast Florida DOT District Two

Community Traffic Safety Team

SUPPLIES:

  • white card stock (or heavy paper)
  • crayons or markers
  • glitter or glitter glue (optional)
  • scissors
  • glue or glue stick
Buckle Up Buddy Heart Activity Card

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Download and print the free template provided above.
  2. Color and decorate the hearts.
  3. Cut out all the pieces.
  4. Fold arms and leg strips like an accordion.
  5. Glue the arms and legs onto the big heart.
  6. Finally, glue the small hearts on to create hands and feet.

You can write a personalized message on the back of your Valentine card. We like, “Be Mine. Be Safe. Be Buckled Up.” Don’t forget to give your special Buckle Up Buddy Heart to someone you love. Or leave it in the car as a reminder to all those you love to wear their seat belt for every car ride.

W.H.A.L.E. Check Program

We Have A Little Emergency – W.H.A.L.E. CHECK Child Passenger Safety Program

Now is the time to educate new parents and caregivers about Florida’s Child Passenger Safety (CPS) laws and guidelines. The W.H.A.L.E. Check program is an excellent resource with important child passenger information and recommendations. Please help us raise awareness and prevent tragedies among our most precious cargo.

The number of U.S. births rose in 2021. The modest 1% gain is more like a baby bump than a baby boom. However, according to new Census Bureau data, Florida’s population also grew by 1.9% from July 2021 to July 2022 – the most significant increase of any US state. Since 2016, some District Two counties have seen even higher growth. St. Johns County has grown by 24% and Nassau County by 16.5% over the last six years. With this baby and population increase in Northeast Florida, there is a need to strengthen child passenger safety education and outreach.

whale check program flyer

Free Resource: Child Passenger Safety Flyer

Available statewide as a digital download courtesy of FDOT District Two: Click here to download the W.H.A.L.E. Check as a one-page, printable PDF flyer. You can print any quantity you need at a reasonable cost on white 8.5×11 label sheets! They are great to distribute at car seat checks, traffic safety events, daycare centers, pediatrician offices, government agencies, and hospitals. Parents and caregivers can read the car seat guidelines and tips, fill out their contact information for emergency personnel, and adhere it along with the two W.H.A.L.E. Check logos onto the child’s car seat.

Child Passenger Safety Awareness and Education

FDOT UF Shands Health WHALE Check Program

Child Passenger Safety Week is September 15-21, 2024, and National Seat Check Saturday is September 21.  Please share this vital child passenger safety information to help reach the goal of zero roadway deaths for our little ones.

Additionally, we designed a special edition in the orange and blue colors of UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital for their partnership with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals for them to print and distribute in their communities in and around Gainesville.

The W.H.A.L.E. Check program was first introduced in May of 2002 in Jacksonville, Florida, by Northeast FDOT District Two’s Community Traffic Safety Program. This is a child passenger safety education and identification program for parents and caregivers in Florida. In the event of an automobile crash, children are often too young to identify themselves or provide helpful information.

Parents and guardians are encouraged to complete the sticker and place it on the back of the child’s car seat to provide vital contact information to emergency personnel. We suggest users stick the two smaller labels on each side of the car seat. These alert rescuers that the occupant is participating in W.H.A.L.E. Check.

Our popular and nationally recognized W.H.A.L.E. Check campaign remains highly requested and distributed material with important child occupant protection education and information. Almost 300,000 printed W.H.A.L.E. Checks have been distributed in Northeast Florida since being launched. Over 1,656 digital versions have been viewed or downloaded from this website. The site has received over 10,000 social media W.H.A.L.E. Check impressions just in the last several years. Watch the video above to learn more about how the program works.

w.h.a.l.e. check program

Free Social Media Graphic

Click here to download this CPS social media image to help promote the W.H.A.L.E. Check program. Don’t forget to tag us!
@trafficsafetyteam on Facebook and Instagram 
@trafficsafetyfl on Twitter and Pinterest


The W.H.A.L.E. Check informational flyer also includes child safety seat advice and guidelines. Here are five safety tips to help prevent injuries in case of a car crash:

  1. WEAR YOUR SAFETY BELT: Studies show that if you wear your seat belt, your kids will too.
  2. Follow manufacturer’s instructions: Always check the manual for both your
    car and the child safety seat for proper installation guidelines.
  3. Seat strapped in tight: You should not be able to move the car seat more than one inch
    in any direction at the belt path, and always use the top tether when forward facing.
  4. Chest clip at armpit level & harness snug: Straps should be tight enough
    so that you cannot pinch the fabric of the harness at the shoulders.
  5. Back seat is safest: Children age 13 and under should ride in the back seat.
    Older children no longer need a special seat if their legs bend comfortably at the
    seat’s edge with their back resting flat against the back of the seat.

We follow these American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations and want all children safeguarded in the right car seat:

  • Birth – 12 Months: Babies under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.
  • 1 – 3 Years: Toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat with a harness as long as possible – until they reach the top height or weight limit of the seat, typically around 35 to 45 pounds.
  • 4 – 7 Years: Young children should ride in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until they reach the top height or weight limit of the seat – typically between 40 and 60 pounds.
  • 8 – 12 Years: Children should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lies snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach, and the shoulder belt lies snug across the shoulder and chest, not over the neck or face.

Child passenger safety has dramatically evolved over the past decade; however, motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for children 4 years and older. This policy statement provides 4 evidence-based recommendations for best practices in the choice of a child restraint system to optimize safety in passenger vehicles for children from birth through adolescence: (1) rear-facing car safety seats as long as possible; (2) forward-facing car safety seats from the time they outgrow rear-facing seats for most children through at least 4 years of age; (3) belt-positioning booster seats from the time they outgrow forward-facing seats for most children through at least 8 years of age; and (4) lap and shoulder seat belts for all who have outgrown booster seats. In addition, a fifth evidence-based recommendation is for all children younger than 13 years to ride in the rear seats of vehicles. It is important to note that every transition is associated with some decrease in protection; therefore, parents should be encouraged to delay these transitions for as long as possible. 

From the American Academy of Pediatrics, Child Passenger Safety Technical Report

Occupant Protection

Seat belt usage remains the most effective way to reduce injuries and fatalities from crashes on our roadways. The Community Traffic Safety Teams in Northeast Florida continue to promote occupant protection and buckling up as a safety tool and a safe lifestyle. Buckling up is not just a trend; it’s a necessity, and “It’s the law.” We feel it’s imperative to continue to promote strong occupant protection messaging.

Buckle Up – Occupant Protection Campaign Graphics

occupant protection banners and posters
2023 Buckle Up Banners and Posters

New Occupant Protection materials are available at no cost in FDOT District Two.

After three years, our “Phone Down / Buckle Up” and “Safety Belts Save Lives” messages remain popular. However, we refreshed the look with brighter colors and modern styles. Help share these free banners and posters in your District Two community and display them inside and outside your organization. Please also distribute them to local events, businesses, or agencies that would also be willing to display them. Click here to place your Northeast Florida order online. 

Because of the increase in our Northeast Florida population, maintaining a solid presence for occupant protection is more critical than ever. Buckling up is the single most effective thing people can do to protect themselves in the event of a crash. Safety belts have been proven to save lives, but they only work if used. 

Below are digital graphics to download and share. Together we can make wearing safety belts a way of life for everyone. Please tag us! @trafficsafetyteam on Facebook and Instagram or @trafficsafetyfl on Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Hashtag #BuckleUpFL #TrafficSafetyFL

Buckle Up – Social Media Files:

occupant protection, Safety Belts Save Lives, Always Buckle Up
Safety Belts Save Lives 2023
distracted driving, occupant protection, Phone Down, Buckle Up
Phone Down, Buckle Up 2023
speeding, aggressive drivers, occupant protection, Country Buckle Up Belt and Slow Down Belt Buckle
Buckle Up and Slow Down 2024

2020-2022 Occupant Protection Designs

  • Retro Style – Phone Down. Buckle Up.
  • EKG Lifeline – Safety Belts Save Lives. Always Buckle Up!
  • Seat Belt Angel – Be Prepared. Be Protected. Buckle Up Religiously!
2’x5′ Buckle Up Banners from 2020
Buckle Up Pop-Up Banner Stands from 2021
Phone Down, Buckle Up 2020
Always Buckle Up 2020
Buckle Up Religiously 2020

Buckle Up Banners About Town

The “Buckle Up” artwork is printed as an 11″x17″ poster, a 2’x5′ banner, and a 3’x6.5′ pop-up banner stand. All materials are in full color and beautiful to display. They are available, while supplies last, to our Northeast FDOT District Two Traffic Safety Team members, partners, organizations, agencies, businesses, and local community groups. Check out some of the occupant protection banners displayed throughout the 18 counties in District Two.


Additional Occupant Protection Resources: