Increasing seat belt use in North Carolina

Williams, Allan F. / Reinfurt, Donald W. / Wells, JoAnn K.
Journal of Safety Research
Spring 1996

North Carolina has embarked on an ambitious multiyear program designed to increase seat belt and child restraint use and to reduce other traffic law violations, including alcohol-impaired driving. Increasing seat belt use, based on the Canadian model of a combination of intensive enforcement and publicity about the enforcement, was emphasized during the first phase. The program called “Click It or Ticket,” was implemented in October and November 1993 and followed up with a second enforcement blitz in July 1994. In all, 6,364 seat belt checkpoints were held, and 58,883 citations for not using belts along with 3,728 citations for not using child safety seats were issued at these checkpoints and by patrols. Driver belt use increased from 64% before the program to 80% in November 1993, dropped to 73% by May 1994, and then rose slightly higher to 81% in August 1994. Based on time-series analyses, it is estimated that 45 more fatalities and 320 additional serious injuries would have occurred during the 6 months following the program than were actually observed. Using a model based on the costs of medical care and emergency services, these estimated injury reductions translate to medical care cost savings of more than $7 million. To gauge public knowledge and opinion, several random digit telephone surveys were carried out following the two program blitzes. At least 75% of the respondents were aware of the program, and more than 85% of the total sample were in favor of such programs.