"Buckle Up NOW!": an enforcement program to achieve high belt use

Williams, Allan F. / Wells, JoAnn K. / McCartt, Anne T. / Preusser, David F.
Journal of Safety Research
Winter 2000

In the mid-1980s, the first formal seat-belt enforcement program in the United States was conducted in Elmira, NY. Front seat-belt use increased from 49% to 80%, and the Elmira program became a model for other such programs. In the spring of 1999, the New York State Police launched a statewide seat-belt enforcement campaign, and the Elmira program was revived as part of this effort. This 3-week program was coordinated by the Chemung County Sheriff's Office, and carried out in cooperation with local police departments as well as the state police. The earlier Elmira program emphasized the health and safety benefits of seat belts and warning periods prior to tickets being issued. The 1999 program featured a strong no-excuses, no-warning enforcement message, 32 belt-use checkpoints, and publicity about the enforcement through a variety of mechanisms, including feedback signs that informed motorists of current belt use rates. Front seat-belt use increased from 69% to 90%. Public opinion surveys indicated the program was well known to Elmira residents, and had the support of 79% of those polled. The 1999 Elmira program demonstrates that high-intensity enforcement programs can increase seat-belt use to very high levels with strong community support.

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