The rate of seat belts used by passengers and drivers in the US has increased to 85% this year, according to figures.

Further, seat belt usage saved over 72,000 lives between 2005 and 2009.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published the new reports, the first being Lives Saved in 2009 by Restraint Use and Minimum Drinking Age Laws and the second, Seat Belt Use in 2010 – Overall Results.

In 2009, the use of seat belts saved an estimated 12,713 lives, while motorcycle helmet use prevented around 1,483 deaths and saved 8,328 lives between 2005 and 2009.

The report also notes 623 lives were saved in 2009 by 21-year-old minimum drinking age laws, and 309 toddlers aged four and under were saved because of child restraint systems.

The findings estimate a 1% increase in national safety belt usage can result in saving 220 lives annually and if everyone used seat belts and motorcycle helmets, an additional 4,420 lives could have been saved in 2009.