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Taking Responsibility

It's Easy to Increase Seat Belt Use — All It Takes Is Everyone

Click! Buckle up. It's easy and it takes three seconds. Once a person establishes the habit of wearing seat belts on every trip, it's usually a habit for life. Examples from businesses, local communities, states, and many other countries show that seat belt use can be increased in America.

Just as the problem of low seat belt use rates belongs to everyone in America, so does the solution. Everyone must buckle up properly, on every trip. Only through the cooperation of all levels of government (Federal, state, and local), the private sector, interest groups, citizen activists, other interested parties, and individuals, can the nation increase its use rate. Through collective partnerships, individuals can be educated and encouraged to change behavior and assume personal responsibility for themselves and their families.

In this partnership, the Federal Government has a role to play. It can develop the "tools" for this collective effort, help establish new partnerships, provide formula and incentive grants, give hands-on assistance when requested, and furnish examples of model programs that work and that can be replicated nationwide.

Many states, communities, and organizations have helped raise seat belt and child safety seat use substantially. Their successful methods can be shared and duplicated. Below are some examples of "best practices":

  • North Carolina's multi-partnered "Click It or Ticket" provides an excellent example. North Carolina began this highly visible enforcement program in 1993, modeled on the successful Canadian STEPs. Seat belt use rose from 65 percent to 83 percent, one of the nation's highest use rates. In the first two years of "Click It or Ticket," fatal and serious injuries were reduced by 15 percent, and taxpayers saved more than $100 million in health care related costs. Nearly every law enforcement agency in the state participates in the program.

  • The Navajo Nation Tribal Council passed a seat belt use law in 1988. Tribal enforcement and awareness activities began that year and expanded in 1992 with a Federal grant from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to establish a Community Traffic Safety Program to emphasize raising the tribe's seat belt use. The program combined community-wide education, school-based injury prevention, Safe Kids coalition programs, and a child safety seat loaner program. The program also provided for improved traffic records, defensive driver training, and an impaired driving task force. Navajo Police undertook aggressive enforcement of the tribe's primary (standard) occupant protection laws through routine patrols and highly publicized check-points. By the end of 1995, surveys showed that low belt use on the reservation (initially measured at 8 percent) soared to 78 percent for the Navajo people, and there was a 50 percent drop in hospital admissions. Tribal employees operating government vehicles are now buckling up 100 percent of the time.

  • The United Parcel Service (UPS) boasts a solid traffic safety record. With more than 84,000 drivers nationwide, UPS has a zero tolerance policy for unsafe driver behavior behind the wheel. As part of its defensive driving program, based on establishing good driver habits, UPS instructs its drivers that if the wheels are in motion, the driver must be secured with a seat belt — even if the vehicle is moving just a few feet. Three decades ago, UPS made a conscious decision to install seat belts in its vehicles to protect its drivers. As a result of UPS' comprehensive driver training program, wearing seat belts has become a habit among UPS employees. Since the inception of UPS' commitment to seat belt usage and other safe driving habits, fatal injury and crash rates have declined steadily.