Escape! Because Accidents Happen: Car Crash

Student Handout

Buckled Up?

National Data

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts are the most effective way to reduce the risk of death and serious injury in automobile accidents. Yet, even with many state laws requiring people to "buckle up," not everyone does. Do you wear your seat belt? What about your friends or family? Conduct a survey to find out how seat belt use across the nation compares to seat belt use in your local area.

Part I
Write your answers on a separate sheet of paper.


  1. What percentage of people in your state do you think use seat belts?

  2. States have different laws requiring seat belt use. How might the rate of use in a state with a primary law compare to the rate of use in a state with a secondary law? Why?

  3. Using the National Statistics student handout provided, create a bar graph to represent seat belt usage rates by state. Put the usage rate along the vertical axis and the state name along the horizontal axis. Use different colors to represent the different laws.


  1. What patterns do you notice between usage rate and type of law?

  2. Do you find any states that do not fit the general pattern? How might you explain these deviations?

  3. In addition to seat belt laws, what other factors might make drivers and passengers buckle up?

  4. In addition to a bar graph, what other ways can you represent the data to analyze it?

Part II


  1. Prepare to collect data on seat belt use in your area to compare to national data. See the Data Collection Strategies student handout for ideas. Questions to consider:

    • What is your state's seat belt law?

    • What types of data are you going to collect?

    • Where will you collect your data?

      IMPORTANT: Choose a safe location and observe at a safe distance from the street. Avoid busy intersections, multilane roads and highways.

    • How will you collect your data?

    • How will you record your data?

  2. Collect and record your data on a separate sheet of paper. Be sure to include the date, time and location of observation.

  3. Combine your data with the class and graph by "number of vehicles" and "occupant seat belt use." (See Sample Local Data Graph below)

    Sample Local Data Graph

    Sample local data graph
  4. Interpret the data.

    • How do you interpret the data?

    • What evidence supports your interpretation?

    • List any alternative explanations to how you might interpret the data.

    • What trends do you see, if any?

    • Is your data accurate? Discuss the degree of uncertainty.

  5. Compare the class's local data to national data.

    • What are the similarities?

    • What are the differences? How might you explain those differences?

    • How does your data compare to your response to the first question in Part I?

Make a chart like this one for your answers:

Seat Belt Observations

Location: Stop light at the intersection of Elm and Center Streets
Date: January 3
Time: 7 a.m. - 8 a.m.
Weather: light rain

Car Type

Driver with Seat Belt

Front Passenger with Seat Belt

passenger car


no passenger




passenger car