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Effect on fatality risk of changing from secondary to primary seat belt enforcement

Farmer, Charles M.; Williams, Allan F.
Journal of Safety Research
2005

Background: Most seat belt use laws originally passed in the United States contained language restricting enforcement to drivers already stopped for some other reason. States that have since removed this secondary enforcement restriction have reported increased seat belt use. The purpose of the present study was to estimate the effect of these law changes on driver fatality rates.
Method: Trends in passenger vehicle driver death rates per billion miles traveled were compared for 10 states that changed from secondary to primary seat belt enforcement and 14 states that remained with secondary enforcement.
Results: After accounting for possible economic effects and other general time trends, the change from secondary to primary enforcement was found to reduce annual passenger vehicle driver death rates by an estimated 7% (95% confidence limits 3.0-10.9).
Conclusion: The majority of U.S. states still have secondary enforcement laws. If these remaining secondary laws were amended, an estimated 696 deaths per year could be prevented.