Examining techniques to improve seat belt usage

The Challenge 

Forty-nine states have laws that require the use of seat belts, but in some states, these laws can be enforced only as a secondary measure. An example would be that if a vehicle was caught speeding, the driver could also then receive a citation for failure to wear a seat belt. Even in the absence of a primary belt use law, some states have higher-than-expected rates of seat belt usage.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted seminars with various police agencies and determined that the leadership shown by some agencies directly contributed to innovative methods that promoted seat belt use.

Westat is tasked with

  • Identifying the successful methods employed by three model police agencies
  • Developing toolkits that can be used by small, medium, and statewide law enforcement units
  • Working with selected target agencies where seat belt usage has historically been low

Westat will also provide independent evaluators to assess the effectiveness of these toolkits and technical assistance provided to the target agencies.

Our Solutions 

  • Westat is working with a rural and a statewide police agency to develop high-visibility law enforcement and public outreach programs, policies, and work plans to help increase seat belt use within their jurisdictions.
  • We are providing data management approaches to monitor program initiatives, implementation, and measures of success. Some techniques include working with community partners to display safety posters; negotiating enhanced media suport; sponsoring contests in local schools; and emphasizing the importance of seat belt use laws to both law enforcement personnel and the driving public.
  • In the evaluation phase, our team will examine changes in documented seat belt use, the number of citations issued over time, and other related data.
  • We will explore how behaviors and attitudes have been affected by this emphasis on promoting driving safety.

The Results 

  • The study will help determine if senior-level law enforcement leadership in promoting safety programs can be effective in promoting seatbelt use in locations without the benefit of primary belt use laws.

Our Client 

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)