Safety Belt and Motorcycle Helmet Use in Virginia: The December 2002 Update

Report No: 03-TAR4

Published in 2003

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 report describes the methodology used for site selection and data collection and adds the results of the December 2002 survey to those conducted previously. It should be noted that the dates for the summer 2002 survey and the December 2002 survey differed from those of previous surveys. From 1992 to 2001, summer surveys had begun the last Thursday in May and generally ended the second week in July, depending on the number of sites rained out. In 2002, at the request of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the summer survey was begun the fourth week of April so that the results would be available before the end of June. The December 2002 survey was conducted beginning December 2 and ending December 18, with rescheduling of rained out sites during the week ending December 23. Since the winter survey was conducted during a time period when days were very short and during which daylight-saving time was not in effect, some of the later sites could not be surveyed because of darkness. New times were randomly selected for these sites during daylight hours. Thus, differences between use rates in 2002 and in other years may be attributable to seasonal differences in travel patterns and restraint/helmet use, rather than solely to changes in driver and occupant behavior. The results show that Virginia's December 2002 safety belt use rate was 71.1% and its motorcycle helmet use rate was 95.7%. 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 11 years of the study, use rates varied from a low of 67.1% in 1997 to a high of 73.6% in 1998. The December 2002 use rate of 71.1% is a slight increase from the 70.4% use rate in the summer of 2002.

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.


  • Jami L. Fisher, Cheryl W. Lynn

Last updated: December 3, 2023

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