Child Safety Seat and Safety Belt Use Among Urban Travelers

Report No: 85-R7

Published in 1984

About the report:

During nine days in June 1977 and nine in June 1983, four major metropolitan areas of Virginia were surveyed to determine whether safety restraints were being used by urban travelers. Observers stationed at selected signalized intersections displayed to stopped motorists a clipboard bearing the question, Are you wearing seat belts? The observers then approached the vehicles to visually verify any response given, and recorded whether safety belts or child safety seats were being used. They also recorded the license numbers of the vehicles and the sex and approximate age of each occupant. One of the objectives of the 1983 survey was to determine the effects of the child safety seat legislation passed by the 1982 Virginia General Assembly. This survey showed that 64.6% of all infant occupants were restrained by state approved child seats as compared to 10.3% in 1977. The law also appeared to have had a positive effect on the use of safety restraints by the other vehicle occupants. Where an infant was in a child safety seat, there was an increased tendency for the other occupants to use safety restraints. The study also identified an association between the driver's use of the safety belt and use by the right front passenger (RFP). As driver use progressed from no use to lap only to lap/shoulder and as driver rate of use increased, so did belt use by RFPs. While there was a significant increase in the use of restraint systems to protect infant passengers and important increases in usage by pre-adults, there was no change in the overall percentage of drivers using safety belts. There was, however, a major shift in the type of belt system used by drivers. In 1983, of the 16.4% of the drivers who were using safety belts, 14.4% were using the lap/shoulder combination. In addition, there was an increase from 9.8% to 16.2% in belt use by RFPs with use of the lap/shoulder combination accounting for 12.1% of the total usage in 1983. Belt use by remaining passengers (RPs) was also greater during the latter survey, 23.6% vs. 3.4%. Most of the increase was the result of the very large increase in the use of child restraints by infant RPs.

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: January 16, 2024

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