FS Units

UW students using seatbelts
A good policy and a great habit

As America waits with baited breath for summer, we tend to get a lot more mobile. Accordingly, many transportation safety initiatives and awareness campaigns occur in the month of May. This includes the highly publicized Click It or Ticket campaign, a seatbelt use and awareness initiative led by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and enforced by police nationwide.

While the social demands for vehicle occupant safety have emerged gradually over the years, the results - measured in lives saved and injuries avoided - have improved dramatically after each change in the law.

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards made seatbelts mandatory equipment in motor vehicles during the 1965 model year, and improved to requiring 3-point (shoulder and lap) belts in 1974.1

New York was the first state to mandate seatbelt use in 1984.

Washington State eventually mandated seatbelt use in 1986 as a secondary offense, and again in 1990 as a primary moving violation.

According to available data, the University of Washington began requiring seatbelt use on its property in 1986.

In spite of the late jump, Washington now boasts traffic fatality rates that are lower than the national average. Even in the low-speed UW campus environment, seatbelts have kept vehicle occupants from suffering severe injuries. The seatbelt usage rate in Washington was 36 percent in 1986, and 98 percent in 2010.2 Unfortunately, the current rate of usage on University property in UW-owned vehicles is only 87 percent.3

Despite many steps forward, motor vehicle accidents remain the primary cause of death for Americans between the ages of 1 and 54, with an average of almost 2.5 million people treated in US hospitals and 30,000 deaths annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control, vehicle accidents account for 36 percent of all work-related fatalities in America – more than any other cause.

Studies indicate that seatbelts reduce motor vehicle deaths by 60 to 70 percent. The evidence of seatbelt effectiveness is overwhelming, and the laws that support seatbelt use have everyone’s protection in mind. Drivers are responsible for ensuring that their passengers are properly restrained, but we encourage everyone to take the extra moment to buckle up before traveling, no matter where you are driving or the distance you are traveling. You might just save a life.

For more information, please visit NHTSA’s Occupant Protection webpage and Washington State Patrol’s Rules of the Road webpage. For questions regarding seatbelt use at the University of Washington, please contact the UW Fleet Safety office at (206) 221-6838 or , or the UW Police at (206) 543-0507.

1. National Highway Transportation Administration. (1999). Federal Motor Vehicle Standard 208.
2. Washington Department of Public Health. (2013). Motor vehicle-related injuries.
3. University of Washington. (2017). Driver safety survey results.


Driver Safety Training

As a reminder, in accordance with UW policy, all drivers of all UW-owned vehicles must:

  • Be a UW faculty, staff, currently enrolled student, hourly/temporary/volunteer employee with a valid employee or student identification number (EIN or SIN)
  • Have an official purpose to drive the vehicle
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have at least 2 years of driving experience
  • Possess a valid driver’s license
  • Have completed the UW Driver Safety & Awareness course prior to driving

This course is also required to be refreshed every two years, and covers those who used to have to take the former van operator safety training.

If you need help, or have questions, please contact the Fleet Safety office at 206-221-6838 or


This article was originally published June 21, 2016. Updated May 17, 2017.