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Attitudes toward seat belt use and in-vehicle technologies for encouraging belt use

Kidd, David G.; McCartt, Anne T.; Oesch, Nathan J.
Traffic Injury Prevention
January 2014

Objectives: In-vehicle seat belt reminders and interlocks can encourage belt use, but widespread adoption of these features depends on the degree of acceptance among both belted and unbelted occupants. The current study collected information about attitudes toward belt use and in-vehicle technologies for encouraging belt use.
Methods: A national telephone survey of 1218 adult drivers and passengers was conducted using random samples of landline and cell phone numbers. Part-time belt users and nonusers were oversampled. All respondents were asked about frequency of belt use, buckling routines, and support for different types of belt interlocks. Part-time belt users and nonusers were queried in more depth about different types of reminders and reminder strategies.
Results: Almost all respondents said that they always use their seat belts (91%). Few said that they did not always (8%) or never (1%) used belts. Driving a short distance (67%), forgetting (60%), and comfort (47%) were common reasons why part-time belt users do not buckle up; comfort (77%), not needing a seat belt (54%), and disliking being told what to do (50%) were most frequently cited among nonusers. When asked about various types of belt interlocks, part-time belt users and nonusers most often said that ignition interlocks would make them more likely to buckle up (70% and 44%, respectively). However, only 44 to 51 percent of all respondents, including full-time belt users, supported using the different types of interlocks to increase belt use. A larger proportion of part-time belt users and nonusers said that they would be more likely to buckle up in response to auditory and haptic reminders than visual reminders. More than two thirds of part-time belt users and at least one third of nonusers said that they would be more likely to buckle up in response to belt reminders that become more intense or continue indefinitely; these reminders would be acceptable to about half of part-time belt users and around one fifth of nonusers.
Conclusions: The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) law allows the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to strengthen minimum requirements for belt reminders or allow the use of interlocks to meet federal safety standards. Even though most people always buckle up, belt interlocks are supported by only about half of full-time belt users and by fewer part-time belt users and nonusers. Enhanced reminder systems are more acceptable than belt interlocks and are viewed as almost as effective as interlocks if persistent enough.