The Transportation Department said Friday that use of seat belts hit 43 percent, the highest level ever, in a recent survey of 19 cities nationwide.

Thirteen of the cities surveyed were in states with mandatory seat-belt laws. Usage in those cities was 48.3 percent, the department said. In the six other cities, usage was just 30 percent.Of the cities, San Diego had the highest usage at 65.6 percent while Providence, R.I., had lowest at 15.4 percent.

"Among front seat passenger vehicle occupants, safety belts saved about 4,000 lives," Transportation Secretary James Burnley said.