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      Seat belt usage declines in NC, rises in SC

      North Carolina was once a leader in seat belt usage, but in 2012, vehicle restraint usage dropped statewide. With South Carolina, drivers and passengers buckled up more often, according to AAA Carolinas.

      North Carolina's rate fell to 87.5% in 2012, down from 89.5% in 2011, while South Carolina's rate increased from 86% in 2011 to 90.5% in 2012, according to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey.

      "Wearing a seat belt or vehicle restraint is the safest single thing anyone in a vehicle can do," said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas.

      "As we enter the last third of 2013, we urge every driver to buckle up and ensure every passenger is in a proper safety restraint, especially children," said Parsons.

      Seat belt usage reduces the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45% and by 60% in trucks, SUVs and minivans, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

      "North Carolina should be commended for being the first state in the country to launch a 'Click It or Ticket' seat belt campaign 20 years ago," said Parsons.

      South Carolina had 552 fatalities in 2012 and so far in 2013, there have been 472.