Safety Belt and Motorcycle Helmet Use in Virginia: The 2001 Update

Report No: 02-TAR4

Published in 2001

About the report:

Safety belt use data were first collected in Virginia in 1974. Early data (1974-77 and 1983-86) were collected from only the four metropolitan areas (Northern Virginia, Tidewater, Richmond, and Roanoke) of the state. Between 1987 and 1992, data were also collected in nine communities with a population under 15,000. In 1991 and 1992, data were collected in four communities with a population between 50,000 and 100,000. It was only with the initiation of this project in 1992 that the state had a true statewide survey.

This series of surveys to determine the safety belt and motorcycle helmet use rates in Virginia was initiated to qualify the Commonwealth for incentive funds in accordance with the requirements of Section 153 of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. To receive the funds, states had to have laws requiring the use of safety belts and motorcycle helmets and to meet certain use rate standards. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration specified the survey criteria to be used in determining a state's use rate.

Even though the Section 153 funding program ended in 1994, Virginia's Department of Motor Vehicles requested that data collection continue and that the same methods, procedures, and sites used for the Section 153 program be used. The Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century established a new grant program (Section 157) for allocating funds to the states. The federal guidelines for conducting surveys to determine a state's use rate are nearly identical with those for the Section 153 program, and Virginia has an approved methodology.

This report describes the methodology used for site selection and data collection and adds the results of the 2001 survey to those of the previous years (1992-2000). The results show that Virginia's 2001 safety belt use rate was 72.3% and its motorcycle helmet use rate was 100%. In each of the 10 years of the survey, virtually all of the motorcycle drivers and passengers observed were using a helmet. For the passenger car drivers and right-front passengers observed in the 10 years of the study, use rates varied from a low of 67.1% in 1997 to a high of 73.6% in 1998. The 2001 use rate of 72.3% is an increase over the 69.9% use rate in 2000.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


  • Jack D. Jernigan, Cheryl W. Lynn

Last updated: December 4, 2023

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