What is the best route to increasing seat belt use?

Finding the best route to increasing seat belt use


More than 90% of drivers and passengers are using seat belts. We know that thanks to the annual National Occupant Protection Use Survey, which Westat conducts for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Each state also conducts its own annual survey of seat belt use. However, the states’ surveys haven’t been uniform, which has made comparing seat belt use in different areas of the country difficult.

Thanks to a recent change in a federal rule, state seat belt surveys must now meet new specific criteria to ensure consistency in their design and execution. The NHTSA asked Westat to assist them in their review of the designs of every state survey to make sure they adhere to the criteria.


We created a website that provides an example of a state survey plan, a copy of the new rules, and other resources for use by the states. This website also is used by the states to submit their survey plans, and allows Westat to track the status of each plan through the review and approval process. Because of the specific requirements, some states must amend their initial plans several times before they are fully compliant.

Final approval of states’ plans is granted by NHTSA, based upon summary findings from Westat.

Our geospatial services group assists states by providing road segment data that can be used in selecting survey data collection sites. Our expertise in working with available road datasets helps to overcome some of the limitations of these data and provide useful information to states.

Westat’s survey statisticians also review the research plans to ensure they are valid and appropriate.

The new rules require states to periodically update their research plans. Using our website, Westat is able to archive all state submissions, compare previously approved survey plans to new plans, and identify issues that must be addressed.


These data will help individual jurisdictions understand seat belt use within their jurisdictions in order to properly guide enforcement and education efforts to increase belt use.

They also provide a more uniform dataset that can be used to compare and contrast restraint use across the U.S.


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