Objectives: This study describes the frequency and pattern of vehicle crashes and safety belt use in Utah; the proportion of vehicle crashes involving safety belt use, alcohol, and fatigue; and the influence these factors and others have on emergency room visits or hospital admissions and on the severity of the outcome.
Methods: Data were obtained from the Utah Department of Transportation, Division of Traffic and Safety, from 1999 through 2005. Motor vehicle crash (MVC) data were linked to statewide hospital admission (inpatient) and emergency department (ED) records.
Results: The trend in rates of crashes significantly decreased for both males and females, with rates of crashes involving alcohol decreasing for males but increasing for females and rates of crashes involving fatigue remaining constant for males and females over the study period. Drivers not wearing a safety belt or intoxicated or fatigued were significantly more likely to have contributed to the crash, visit the emergency room, be admitted to the hospital, and experience severe injury or death. Drivers in crashes who were intoxicated or fatigued were significantly less likely to be wearing a safety belt. When a safety belt was worn at the time of the crash, sitting in the front seat was safer than in the second or third seats, and sitting on the left side of the vehicle was safer than on the right side or in the middle. However, when a safety belt was not worn at the time of the crash, sitting in the front seat was more likely associated with injury or death than in the second or third seats or sitting in the middle seat.
Conclusion: Drivers in crashes who were intoxicated or fatigued were less likely to be wearing a safety belt and more likely to have contributed to the crash and experience serious injury or death. Severity of injury related to seat placement is moderated by safety belt use.