Seat Belt and Shoulder Strap Use Among Urban Travelers: Interim Report

Report No: 73-R36

Published in 1974

About the report:

Because of the need to establish a data baseline for belt usage without mandatory legislation, a survey of selected areas of the state of Virginia was conducted during January 1974 to determine lap and shoulder belt use by urban travelers. Observer-data collectors were positioned at preselected signalized intersections. Over a nine-day period, data were collected in four metropolitan areas for eight hours each day. Data were collected on 4,944 individuals travelling in 3,440 automobiles. Of the people sampled, 2,939 were male, and 2,005 were female. Twenty-four percent of the sampled drivers and 15.7% of the sampled passengers were wearing belts. Of the males, 18.8% wore a lap belt and 3.9% wore lap and shoulder belts. Of the females, 25.5% wore lap belts and 4.2% wore both belts. Lap belt percentages include those wearing both belts. The occupancy rate for the survey was 1.44 individuals per vehicle. This low figure is moderately surprising in light of the fuel shortage existing during the survey and governmental pleas for carpooling. Of those individuals giving an affirmative reply to the question "Are you wearing seat belts?", approximately 20% self-reported incorrectly. This finding has implications for the interpretation of questionnaire types of studies.

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.


  • Charles B. Stoke

Last updated: February 6, 2024

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