Mandatory Safety Belt Use Legislation: Alternatives for Virginia Lawmakers: Final Report

Report No: 86-R27

Published in 1986

About the report:

This report discusses the current environment which would influence the consideration of a mandatory safety belt use law in Virginia. First, the regulatory context fostered by the U. S. Department of Transportation's issuance of federal motor vehicle safety standard 208 is examined. This rule requires that automobile manufacturers install passive restraints such as airbags or automatic seat belts in all cars by 1989 unless states covering two-thirds of the nation's population enact mandatory safety belt use laws. Next is a discussion of the provisions of the mandatory use laws in effect in 16 states, along with data from New York and New Jersey, the first two states to enact such legislation. In New York State, safety belt usage increased from around 20% to nearly 78% following the effective date of the law. While the use of belts subsequently declined, it remained two or three times higher than before the law. A significant decline in highway fatalities was also noted following passage of the mandatory use law. Finally, data on safety belt usage and traffic deaths in Virginia are examined. According to statistics from the Fatal Accident Reporting System, of the 2,154 people killed in highway accidents in Virginia between 1982 and 1984, 2,076 (96%) were not wearing safety belts. Belt wearers, who constitute as much as 20% of the motorists, accounted for only 4% of the traffic deaths. A similar relationship is evident in the data for each of the Department of Motor Vehicle districts in the state.

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

Jessica A. Ginsburg

Last updated: February 10, 2024

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