IV. Results

C. Review of Four Community Demonstration Programs Aimed at Teens

In addition to the literature review described in the previous section, NHTSA provided preliminary reports from four recent State/community programs initiated in 2001 that have potential to specifically increase teen safety belt use. In an ongoing effort to reduce teen vehicle-related fatalities and injuries, NHTSA provided funding for four regional enforcement programs that aimed to increase safety belt use and also reduce the incidence of impaired driving, underage drinking, and speeding among youth populations.

These demonstration projects were planned to reduce teen alcohol and speed related traffic fatalities as well as increase teen safety belt use through strict enforcement of existing laws, combined with a public information/education component geared to promoting awareness of the enforcement activities, as well as emphasizing the need for enforcement to generate positive traffic safety habits. The education campaigns used peer-to-peer communications that empower youth to participate in the education process.

In this section, the key findings from these programs are summarized and synthesized. The following technical documents were reviewed:

  • Frederick County, Maryland: Frederick County Teen Safe Driving Initiative, October 2001- June 2003, Final Report of Grant Outcomes, September 10, 2003;260

  • Plymouth/Maple Grove/Minnetonka, Minnesota: Teens Driving Safe Final Report, September 2003 and Highlights;267

  • Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton, Pennsylvania: Teen Safe Driving Initiative, Evaluation Report, October 2003;129

  • Spokane, Washington: Driving for Life Final Report, September 2003 and Highlights.257

Four Community Demonstration Programs: Descriptions and Timelines

Table 4. Summary of Site Program Elements

and Dates
Youth Activities
Type of Media
and PR Activities
Type of Enforcement

Frederick County, Maryland

Oct. 2001 –
June 2003

8 major events: 2 Youth Safety Days, 2 mall Back-to-School Days, 2 Frederick fairs, short film clip on underage drinking parties, law enforcement luncheon skit, Task force meetings, seatbelt T-shirt development, Paint-a-Wreck contest, Teens Driving Safe Sober Concert featuring Big Wu, Grim Reaper actors in schools, contracts between teen driver & parent. Safety belt and speeding PSAs aired until November. Movie theater advertisementsConducted many presentations to students in schools and to civic groups. Developed good relationship with local newspaper. Multi-agency enforcement: underage compliance checks, party patrols, “Cops in Shops”, used school feeder roads for speeding and safety belt enforcement. Conducted 8-hour school checkpoints. Trained 90% of sworn officers in county. Conducted sobriety checkpoints until legal rules changed. None provided by evaluator.

Plymouth/ Maple Grove/ Minnetonka, Minnesota

Oct. 2001 –
June 2003

Main program element was the establishment of a Traffic Diversion School for 16-18-year-olds with traffic citations Movie theater ads, three police chiefs media events, local cable-TV coverage of Teens Driving Safe & Sober Concert, posters opposing parent-sponsored parties allowing drinking. Special patrols for juvenile parties, 132 multi-agency saturation patrols in locations where teens congregate, 107 school patrols before and after school and at sporting events, bike patrols Teen drivers involved in crashes in first quarter of grant compared to numbers in last quarter. Numbers of violations/ citations during grant, belt use rate as measured outside 6 high schools: 74% at start of project vs. 78% at end.

Easton, Pennsylvania
(Lehigh Valley)

October 2001 –
October 2003

Safety Bug (modified VW driven through obstacle course, simulating DUI), youth conference, prom graduation forum, health expos, “Every 15 Minutes” (demonstrated impact of a DUI fatality), Red Ribbon Week (sponsored by SADD), Drink Mix-Off, SADD Leadership Awards Banquet, over 500 keys with SADD logo distributed Approx. 3 press releases or op-ed pieces appeared each month in area papers. Held 2 press conferences, youth developed PSAs aired on youth radio station. Approx. 173 special enforcement details: speed enforcement, roving patrols, saturation patrols, sobriety checkpoints, Cops in Shops, and safety belt checks (PA is a secondary enforcement state) Underage drinking arrests increased from 2000 to 2001 by approximately 100 in Lehigh and 100 in Northampton. Belt use per year for teens increased over 10 percentage points from 2000 to 2002

Spokane, Washington

Oct. 2001 –
June 2003

Nestle Crunch bars distributed at safety belt observations; 248 crosses representing fatalities posted at schools, “Dying to Drive” 2-day class, Car Smash. Held 11 “So Your Teen Is Driving” presentations to parents, presentation by Washington State Police Corporal to 1,500+ youth, anti-street racing logo T-shirts designed and given away, phone cards passed out by officers, poster contest, obstacle course instruction at local raceway, among others. 6 TV and radio PSAs aired on 3 major networks. Had partnership with 2 local radio stations. Aired PSAs and radio interviews, dispatched radio personnel to special activities, and “Driving for Life” personnel at radio broadcast activities.Purchased 2 ads in independent weekly paper, and received one article on street racing issue. Used movie theater ads, featured winning poster from poster contest. 11 press releases sent out, resulting in estimated 8 printed articles, 9 radio interviews and 22 TV news features. On 3 occasions, radio hosts consumed alcohol beverages and Spokane police officers breath tested the host as a demonstration of the impairing effects of alcohol consumption. Special Saturation Patrols used in locations where teens drive, 8 party patrols, swing shift patrol added 9 to staff for traffic enforcement, new equipment: tint meters to detect and cite for illegally tinted windshields, radar reader board for schools and other zones, 16 portable breath testing devices and special enforcement vehicle. Safety belt observations conducted at schools. (Of the 3 schools with pre/post data, found a 10-16 percentage point increase in belt use.) Teen focus groups held to assess project activities. Numbers of citations for various teen offences presented for 2000 – 2003 by age group. (Safety belt citations increased from 506 in ’01-02 to 815 in ’02-03.)NOTE: A primary safety belt law was passed in June 2002 most likely affecting the belt use in the state during the grant period.3 teen focus groups held to assess project activities. Numbers of citations for various teen offences presented for 2000 – 2003 by age group.

Due to the multiple objectives and the variety of program components, it would be very difficult to tease out the efforts that were the most successful in increasing teen belt use.

The Frederick, Maryland, project did not report safety belt use rates. The Minnesota project, which conducted observations outside six high schools, reported a small increase in teen safety belt use rate from a base of 75 percent to a final rate of 78 percent. The Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, project reported a 10-percentage-point increase in teen belt use from 2000 to 2002, although the observation methodology and timeframe were not specified. The Spokane, Washington, project, which did observations outside three high schools, reported a 10- to 16-percentage-point increase in teen safety belt use from baseline to the end of the project.

In summary, it appears from these four demonstration projects that a combined approach including education, publicized enforcement of safety belt laws, and peer-to-peer programs will have at least a modest effect on safety belt use by teens. It is unknown whether this effect will last over time without sustaining all the components.