CDC researchers say car occupants in rural counties have higher death rates due to seat belt use.

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CDC researchers say car occupants in rural counties have higher death rates due to seat belt use.

— Another study has been released about seat belt use and death rates and the news isn't good for folks who spend a lot of time driving in rural counties.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), vehicle occupants in the most rural counties had death rates 3 to 10 times higher than occupants in the most urban counties. The higher death rates are attributed to car occupants in rural counties simply because of not wearing their seat belts.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) was used to find occupant deaths for people 18 or older, and the CDC gathered data from its Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to estimate how often passenger vehicle occupants used their seat belts.

Researchers reached their conclusions by simply looking at who was wearing a seat belt at the time of a fatal crash and who was not. The study found that as areas grow more rural, the death rates in car crashes increase, and the entire reason is because of skipping the use of seat belts.

Researchers also found where those rural counties are located in the U.S. makes a difference in the death rates per 100,000 population.

For example, the most rural counties in the West have death rates of 40.0 out of 100,000 people, but those rates decline in North Eastern rural counties to 10.8. Switch that around to the most urban counties in the West and the rate drops to 3.9 out of 100,000.

The Southern most rural counties saw death rates at 29.2 and the Midwest had a death rate of 25.8 out of a population of 100,000.

Overall, the percentage of drivers and passengers who were not buckled up at the time of a fatal crash was 61.3 percent in the most rural counties, but drops to 44.4 percent in the most urban counties.

The study also concluded that how states handle seat belt laws can alter death rates in rural counties.

In primary enforcement states where the police can ticket a car occupant for failure to wear seat belts, rural seat belt use is significantly higher than in secondary enforcement states. Secondary states gives the police the right to ticket a non-seat belt user only if another violation occurs.

The subject of seat belt use is often studied because of the connection to death rates, and why occupants don't wear seat belts has caused researchers to ask questions.

Based on past research, how much an occupant weighs plays an important part of wearing a seat belt. In a study from 2012, researchers found that drivers considered of normal weight were 67 percent more likely to wear a seat belt than morbidly obese drivers.

Another study from 2014 reinforced the 2012 study as researchers determined the odds of being killed in an auto accident increased to 80 percent for the morbidly obese compared to an occupant considered of normal weight.

Additionally, even the slightly obese were 21 percent more likely to die in a crash, and morbidly obese women were nearly twice as likely to be killed when compared to morbidly obese men.

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