Most—almost 90%—of us are using our seat belts, and that’s good news. But more than half of all people killed in crashes were unrestrained.
One approach to improving seat belt use is through “enhanced” seat belt reminder systems that go beyond federal requirements for vehicle equipment. For example, a warning sound might continue as long as an occupant is unbuckled, or passengers may get individual visual display warnings.
For the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Westat is investigating whether enhanced seat belt reminders improve seat belt use and what the most effective elements of these systems are.
- For our study, we collected data on seat belt use by drivers and passengers in more than 60,000 vehicles in 8 states. We also collected their license plate numbers.
- Working with state motor vehicle administrations, we used the license plate numbers to get the vehicle identification numbers (VINs) for more than 40,000 vehicles.
- Through the VINs, we determined the exact make, model, and year of the vehicles and then matched observed seat belt use with characteristics of the seat belt reminder systems.
- Using statistical analysis and modeling, we determined the effects of the reminder systems, while controlling for other factors that could affect the results.
- The research results provide NHTSA with a better understanding of the benefits of enhanced systems for promoting seat belt use and the key features of the most effective seat belt reminder systems.