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Feb. 29, 2024

Civil engineering researcher conducts seat belts study

Timothy Gates helps Michigan evaluate driver behavior, safety risks

Timothy Gates
Timothy Gates

A Michigan State University College of Engineering researcher is working with the State of Michigan to study how drivers behave on the roads and if they are doing enough to keep themselves and passengers safe. 

Recent findings, according to, show a historic drop in seat belt usage. 

Timothy Gates, an MSU Civil and Environmental Engineering associate professor, and state officials conducaed in May and June 2023 an observational study that showed 92.4% of drivers were wearing their seat belt. 

It was the lowest usage rate since 2004. 

Michigan remains ahead of the national average (91.9%), according to the report, but has fallen more than 5% from the 97.9% rate recording in 2009. 

For a complete breakdown of 2023 seat belt usage for all of Michigan's 83 counties and details on how this type of study is conducted, visit the Michigan State Police's website.

Gates has several years of experience researching traffic safety, traffic engineering, traffic operations and driver behavior.

Since 2007, he has served as a principal investigator (PI) or co-PI on more than $12 million worth of funded research and more than 60 competitive grants. 

Gates and Peter Savolainen, a Civil and Environmental Engineering MSU Foundation Professor and interim department chair, have experience working with the state on a variety of transportation issues.

They have received national recognition for safety findings on speed feedback signs and helped state officials study ways to enforce distracted driving violations.

Written by Eric Lacy, See more at the Engineering Media and Public Relations page.