Safety Belt and Motorcycle Helmet Use in Virginia: The Summer 2003 Update

Report No: 04-R8

Published in 2004

About the report:

The Virginia Transportation Research Council has been collecting safety belt use data in Virginia since 1974. In 1992, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published the final guidelines for conducting surveys of belt and helmet use in the states. As of the 1992 survey, Virginia adopted the NHTSA protocol for its statewide survey. For many years, the dates for these safety belt surveys were held constant. However, in the last several years, the dates changed, although the day of week and time of day stayed the same. From 1992 to 2001, surveys began the last Thursday in May and generally ended the second week in July, depending on the number of sites "rained out" and rescheduled. In 2002, at the request of NHTSA, the survey was begun the fourth week of April so that the results would be available before the end of June. This year, the summer survey began June 1 and ended June 23. By compressing the survey period to less than 1 month, the authors felt that a better "snapshot" of safety belt use would be produced. The authors intend to use the same survey period in future years, barring unforeseen circumstances. The survey showed that Virginia's 2003 safety belt use rate was 74.6% and its motorcycle helmet use rate was 98.7%. For the passenger car drivers and right-front passengers in the 11 previous surveys, use rates varied from 67.1% in 1997 to 73.6% in 1998. The summer 2003 use rate of 74.6% is the highest rate since Virginia began using the NHTSA methodology in 1992. However, because of changes in survey dates, differences between use rates in the 2002 and 2003 surveys and those of previous years may be attributable to seasonal differences in travel patterns and restraint/helmet use, rather than solely to changes in driver and passenger behavior.

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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