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Germany, France get best seat-belt marks in EU; Hungary worst

German and French car drivers buckle up the most in the European Union while their Hungarian counterparts do so the least, said a safety group that urged more publicity campaigns to prevent thousands of deaths a year.

Germany's seat-belt use rate is 96% for car drivers and 89% for back-seat passengers and France's is 97% for drivers and 70% for rear-seat occupants, said the European Transport Safety Council. The data are from 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available. In Hungary, people in the front fasten their seat belts 67% of the time and back-seat passengers 34%. No data exist for Greece, Lithuania and Slovakia, which probably have rates below 60%, and information wasn't collected for EU newcomers Romania and Bulgaria, the group said. „While police checks should be carried out throughout the year, intensive campaigns are also needed to foster people's habit of buckling up,” the council said in a report released today in Brussels. Around 11,700 drivers in the EU, including 2,000 in Germany, survived „serious” crashes in 2005 thanks to seat belts and 2,400 fatalities a year could be prevented in Europe with 99% seat-belt use by drivers, the group said. The EU is seeking to cut annual road-accident deaths to 25,000 within four years from 41,600 in 2005 through stricter seat-belt laws, common driving-license rules and legislation cutting weekly driving times for truckers. Last year, member states were obliged under an EU law to extend a seat-belt use requirement to occupants of all motor vehicles, including trucks and coaches. Other nations in the 27-nation EU at the top of the rankings include the UK and the Netherlands. In Britain, 90% of drivers wear seat belts and 84% of back-seat passengers do. In the Netherlands, 92% of drivers use their seat belts and 64% of back-seat occupants do, according to the group. (Bloomberg)