Seat Belt and Shoulder Strap Use Among Urban Travelers: A Comparison of Results From 1974 and 1975 Surveys: A Report

Report No: 76-R61

Published in 1976

About the report:

During nine consecutive days in late January 1974, four major metropolitan areas of the state of Virginia were surveyed in an effort to determine seat belt use by urban travelers. Observer data collectors were stationed at selected signalized intersections. Motorists in the lane adjacent to the curb were shown a clipboard lettered with the question "Are you wearing seat belts?" The observer then approached the vehicle and visually verified the response given, and recorded whether seat belts and/or shoulder straps were being used. The observer also recorded the age category of the vehicle and the sex and approximate age of each occupant. Approximately one year later the survey was repeated, using the same intersection locations, days of the week, and hours of the day. Although there were intergroup variations between the 1974 and 1975 data, seat belt usage generally was greater during the second year. Driver use increased by 3.5%, from 24% in 1974 to 27.5% in 1975. Right front seat passenger use increased by 4.1%, from 18.2% in 1974 to 22.3% in 1975. There was no real change in use by the remaining passengers. The most interesting aspect of the study was the association between the driver's use of belts and the right front passenger's use. In vehicles in which the driver was not using a seat belt, neither were over 96% of the right front passengers. When the driver was using only a lap belt, 67% (1974) and 75.4% (1975) of the right front passengers were using either the lap belt or the lap and shoulder belts. When the driver was using both lap and shoulder belts ,77% (1974) and 84.3% (1975) of the right front passengers were using either the lap belt or the lap and shoulder belts. Though no causal effect is assumed from these findings, the association between driver and passenger use is worth noting. Other changes in the rate of use involved the age of the vehicle, the sex and age of the occupant, and the area of the state surveyed, but there was no consistent change with a relationship to occupant seat position which ran through each of these data categories.

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.


Other Authors

Charles B. Stoke

Last updated: January 29, 2024

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