In 2003, NHTSA conducted a survey27 among a national sample of approximately 6,000 people age 16 and older to determine attitudes, knowledge, and experience with safety belt laws and their enforcement. Support for safety belt use laws was enormously positive, as was support for safety belt use.
The vast majority (88%) of the public favored safety belt laws for front seat occupants.
Among persons who supported front seat safety belt laws, 80 percent also supported applying safety belt laws to back seat adult passengers.
Almost two-thirds (65%) of the population age 16 and older supported fines for drivers who did not wear safety belts. About half that many supported points against the license as a penalty.
Almost everyone (94%) believed their States had laws requiring safety belt use. They most often thought the law covered drivers, children in the front, and adult passengers in
Approximately two-thirds (66%) of the public who believed that their State had a safety belt law thought the law permitted primary enforcement.
In primary enforcement States, about three-fourths of the total population believed their State had a safety belt law that included primary enforcement provisions.
In secondary enforcement States, almost half (46%) of the people believed their State law had primary enforcement provisions. Approximately a third thought it had secondary enforcement provisions.
Drivers were more likely to report that they wore their safety belt “all of the time” while driving if they resided in States having primary enforcement provisions (89%), as opposed to secondary enforcement provisions (81%).
Overall, 64 percent of the population believed that police should be allowed to stop a vehicle if they observed a safety belt violation when no other traffic laws were being broken, compared to 61 percent in 2000.
Almost half (46%) of drivers considered it very or somewhat likely that they would receive a ticket if they did not wear their safety belt at all while driving over the next six months. The perceived risk of being ticketed was higher among drivers in primary enforcement States, and higher among drivers who tended to wear their safety belt more often.
When asked to rate on a 10-point scale how strictly they believed the police should enforce safety belt laws, the public’s response was mixed. They most often picked a value of “10” meaning “Police should give tickets at every opportunity,” although responses also clustered at the middle and low end of the scale. The average score was 6.3.
The number of States (plus DC and Puerto Rico) with safety belt laws that contain provisions permitting primary enforcement has increased substantially since the survey was first administered, reaching 18 at the time of the 2003 survey (It reached 25 at the time of this publication.) Consistent with that increase: