Urban Safety Restraint Use by Infants and Children under 16 Years of Age in Virginia: The 2003 Survey Results

Report No: 04-R23

Published in 2004

About the report:

The original child restraint law passed in Virginia in 1982 required that children under 4 years of age use a child safety seat, except for those who weighed at least 40 pounds or were at least 40 inches tall, who could use a standard safety belt. In 1997, Sections 46.2-1094 and 46.2-1095 of the Code of Virginia were changed to require that all children under age 16 use safety restraints. In 2002, the legislature amended Section 46.2-1095 so that "Any person who drives on the highways of Virginia any motor vehicle manufactured after January 1, 1968, shall ensure that any child, through age five, whom he transports therein is provided with and properly secured in a child restraint device of a type which meets the standards adopted by the United States Department of Transportation" [emphasis added]. In addition, Section 46.2-1100 stipulated that "The use of a seat belt ... shall not violate this article if (i) the affected child is at least four years old but less than six years old and (ii) the weight and size of the child is such as to make the use of such seat belt practical and the use of an approved child restraint impractical." Safety restraint use among children has been monitored in Virginia using roadside surveys since the early 1980s. Changes were made in the 2002 survey methodology to allow the survey to reflect the changes in the child restraint law. The age categories previously used in the survey were changed to (1) infants and toddlers 0 through 3 years, (2) preschoolers 4 and 5 years old, and (3) children 6 through 15 years old. These categories will allow the investigators to continue to analyze the longitudinal restraint use data using the previous age categories (0 through 3 years and 4 through 15 years) as well as to evaluate the impact of the legislative changes made in 2002 using the new age categories (0 through 5 years and 6 through 15 years) when sufficient data are available. A total of 2,452 children were observed during the 2003 survey: 353 children under age 4 and 2,099 children 4 through 15 years of age. In 2003, total child restraint use for metropolitan areas and mid-size cities combined was 91.1% and correct use was 89.3%. Total seat belt use among 4 through 15 year olds in metropolitan areas and mid-size cities combined was 65.1%, and correct use was 53.5%.

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.


  • Cheryl Lynn, Jami Kennedy

Last updated: November 30, 2023

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