Seat Belt and Shoulder Strap Use Among Urban Travelers: A Comparison of Survey Results from 1974, 1975, and 1976

Report No: 77-R35

Published in 1977

About the report:

During nine 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, in February 1975, the survey was repeated, using the same intersection locations, days of the week, and hours of the day. Seat belt usage generally was greater during the second survey. Driver use increased by 3.5% and right front seat passenger use increased by 4.1%. There was no real change in use by the remaining passengers. A third survey was conducted during February 1976. The same days of the week, hours of the day, and intersection locations were used for this survey as were used for the first two surveys. Occupant use was found to be lower than for either of the preceding two surveys. In 1976 the use of restraints was 18.2% by drivers, 12.4% by right front passengers, and 5.5% by the remaining passengers. An association between the driver's use of belts and the right front passenger's use was noted during all three surveys. In vehicles in which the driver was not using a seat belt, 97.2% (1974), 96.3% (1975), and 98.3% (1976) of the right front passengers were not using a seat belt. When the driver was using only a lap belt, 67.0% (1974), 75.4% (1975), and 61.9% (1976) 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, 77.0% (1974), 84.3% (1975), and 73.7% (1976) of the right front passengers were using either the lap belt or the lap and shoulder belts. It is interesting to note that when the driver was wearing only the lap belt the majority of the right front passengers also were using the lap belt only. When the driver was wearing both the lap and shoulder belts the majority of the right front passengers also were using the lap and shoulder belts (see Table 2). Although no causal effect is assumed from these findings, the high degree of association of use between driver and right front passenger is worth noting.

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.


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Charles B. Stoke

Last updated: January 28, 2024

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