An Observational Survey of Safety Belt and Child Safety Seat Use in Virginia: The 1988 Update

Report No: 89-R28

Published in 1989

About the report:

Observational surveys of safety belt use in Virginia have been conducted in two series. The first covered 1974 through 1977, and the second 1983 through 1988. This report is concerned only with the latter series and encompasses use rates that are the result of passage of the Child Safety Seat Law (Senate Bill 413), which went into effect on January 1, 1983, and the Mandatory Use Law (MUL) (House Bill 1210), which went into effect on January 1, 1988. Observed belt usages are analyzed according to a number of occupant, vehicle, and geographic characteristics. Each of these is discussed in a separate section of the report. There were gradual increases in safety belt use in the urban areas between 1983 and 1987. Subsequent to the effective date of the state MUL, there was a sharp rise in use rates. In 1988, 68.9% of the urban drivers and 50.8% of the urban passengers used a safety belt. Use rates in the towns were much lower than those for the urban areas, but there also was a large increase in usage rates subsequent to the MUL. Although there were large differences in the belt use rates among the towns surveyed, 55.8% of the town drivers and 37.1% of the town passengers were belt users in 1988. The combined statewide rates were 65.5% for drivers and 46.8% for passengers--rates of use nearly double the pre-MUL rates of 34.3% and 28.9%. A number of other findings are presented in the report. Among these are the following: (1) belt use was highest in the northern area of the state; (2) there was little difference in use rates throughout the day; (3) approximately two-thirds of all the infants were in safety seats; (4) 37.5% (1987) and 21.4% (1988) of the child seats were misused in an obvious way; and (5) with the exception of infants, older adults had the highest rates of use in 1988. It was concluded that passage of the Child Safety Seat Law and the MUL had a major positive influence on safety belt use rates in Virginia. It is recommended that efforts to bolster the belt-wearing habits of Virginians should be directed to the residents of the smaller communities and rural areas. Efforts should also be directed at occupants of the rear seating positions of automobiles and at males 17 through 30 years old. Finally, programs and expenditures of funds should be initiated in areas where use rates have started to decline or have remained below one-half of those observed.

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: December 28, 2023

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