Safety Belt and Motorcycle Helmet Use in Virginia: The Summer 2008 Update

Report No: 09-R7

Published in 2008

About the report:

This survey was conducted at the request of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to track the effectiveness of programmatic efforts carried out to increase safety belt usage in Virginia. The official Virginia safety belt use survey is conducted in June of each year, and the Virginia results are reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Virginia Transportation Research Council has been collecting safety belt use data since 1974. The initial surveys (1974 through 1977 and 1983 through 1986) covered only the four major metropolitan areas of the state (Northern Virginia, Tidewater, Richmond, and Roanoke). Beginning in 1992, the method for gathering data was changed to a statistically valid probability-based sampling plan in accordance with federal guidelines. Prior to initiation of the 2003 survey, 20 new sites were added to enhance statistical power. This gave Virginia a total of 140 sites to be surveyed. Also in 2003, population figures were reexamined based on new census data. This report describes the methodology used for site selection and data collection and adds the results of the summer 2008 survey to those conducted previously. The survey showed that Virginia's summer 2008 safety belt use rate was 78.7 percent, and its motorcycle helmet use rate was 97.8 percent. In the 17 previous surveys, virtually all of the motorcycle drivers and passengers observed were using a helmet. For passenger motor vehicle drivers and right front passengers observed from 1992 through 2008, use rates varied from a low of 67.1 percent in 1997 to a high of 80.4 percent in summer 2005. The summer 2008 use rate of 78.7 percent represents a slight decrease from the 2007 rate of 79.9%. Any differences in rates may be attributable to differences in travel patterns and other extraneous variables rather than solely to changes in driver or occupant 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 W. Lynn, Jami L. Kennedy

Last updated: November 23, 2023

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