The Use of Safety Restraint Systems in Virginia by Occupants Under 16 Years of Age: Summer 1998

Report No: 99-TAR7

Published in 1999

About the report:

This series of observational surveys to determine child safety seat use in Virginia began in 1993 at the request of officials of Virginia's Department of Motor Vehicles. During all 5 years (there was no survey in 1995), data for metropolitan areas were collected at the same locations, at the same time of day and day of week, and in accordance with the same criteria for determining use. In 1997, data collection was added for safety restraint use by occupants 4 to 16 years of age at the request of officials of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), which is now responsible for the state's child safety seat program. In addition, VDH requested that sites be added in communities with a population between 50,000 and 100,000 (mid-size cities), so 7 sites were added. The 1998 data show that the proportion of children riding in the front seats has shifted. For metropolitan area occupants under 4 years of age, the proportion of front seat occupants was 19.6% in 1997 and 7.3% in 1998 (p < .01). In the mid-size cities, there was no significant difference between the 2 years, 14.8% to 15.1%. For metropolitan area occupants between 4 and 16 years of age, the proportions were 47.8% in 1997 and 30.7% in 1998 (p < .01), and in the mid-size cities the proportions were 46.5% in 1997 and 29.4% in 1998 (p < .01). A shift in the riding position in the vehicles could result in highway safety benefits to child occupants. When the 1998 child safety seat use rate data for all 41 sites (34 metropolitan and 7 mid-size city) were combined, correct use was 55.3%, incorrect use was 18.9%, and non-use was 25.8%. For 1997, correct use was 52.6%, incorrect use was 17.0%, and non-use was 30.4%. The 1998 safety restraint use rates for all 41 sites for all occupants between 4 and 16 years of age were 47.6% (correct), 15.2% (incorrect), and 37.2% (non-use). In 1997, correct use was 42.2%, incorrect use was 4.2%, and non-use was 53.5%. When the 1998 child safety seat use rate patterns in the metropolitan areas were compared with those in 1997 and 1993, it was found that the non-use rates in 1998 were lower, but the shift did not reach statistical significance at the 5% level. When the 1998 child safety seat use rate patterns for the mid-size cities and for all 41 sites combined were compared with those from 1997, it was found that the non-use rates were lower in 1998, but the shift did not reach statistical significance at the 5% level. When the 1998 safety restraint use rate patterns of occupants between 4 and 16 years of age were compared with those for 1997 on the basis of metropolitan area, mid-size city, and all sites combined, it was found that in each case there was a statistically significant (p < .01) change in the use rate patterns primarily accounted for by a drop in the non-use rate. The results of the 1998 survey provide three major findings: (1) between 1997 and 1998, there has been a shift toward larger proportions of occupants in the rear seats, (2) there was a small decline in the child safety seat non-use rates between the 2 years, and (3) there was a large decline in the non-use of safety restraints by 4- to 16-year-old occupants. The results indicate that the cumulative effects of various activities of the public and private sectors to inform the public that children are safer in the rear seats has had a positive impact on riding position. In addition, the action by the General Assembly requiring mandatory restraint use by occupants 4 to 16 years of age led to increased restraint use by this age group. It is recommended that the state and local governments continue with their efforts to increase safety restraint use, including enforcement and public information and education, especially in areas identified as having high non-use rates.

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.

Authors

Other Authors

Charles B. Stoke

Last updated: December 12, 2023

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