CHARLOTTE – Seatbelt usage in North Carolina has statistically been among the best in the nation for a while, but AAA Carolinas Communications Director, Angela Vogel Daley, says the buckle-up rate dipped in 2012.

“In 2012 compared to 2011, we found that seatbelt use rates fell from 89.5 percent in 2011 to 87.5 percent in 2012, which is an alarming trend that it’s going down after going up for so many years,” Daley says.

She says the high rate is in part due to the Click-It-Or-Ticket campaign and the subsequent enforcement of it. North Carolina was the first to launch the campaign 20 years ago.

Statistics by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that the use of seat belts reduces the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passengers in cars by 45 percent and in trucks by 60 percent.

“That’s an average, but obviously when you’re going at higher speeds and you’re in an accident you have a higher chance of being thrown from the vehicle,” Daley says. “You could be killed on impact.”

South Carolina has followed the same trend that North Carolina did increasing its usage rate from 70 percent in 2005 to 91 percent in 2012. Daley says a lot of that has to do with the change in state law.

“That’s for the front and back seats meaning that you can get pulled over for not wearing your seatbelts (without) requiring another violation,” Daley says.

Both states are still above the national average of 86 percent, but that number is also on the rise after jumping two points this past year.

“The increased enforcement, the increased awareness, it’s definitely heading in the right direction,” Daley says.

According to the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, in 2011, 43 percent of people who died in a traffic-related incident were not wearing a seatbelt. It also reported that 53 percent of those who died unbelted were ages 16-35.