1998 SURVEY RESULTS

CHAPTER 1

SEAT BELT USE



Prior to collecting detailed information on seat belt use, the survey asked respondents if they were drivers, and if so, what type of vehicle they most often drove. Questions about the seat belt configuration in that vehicle followed. Only then did the survey query respondents about their seat belt use, defining it as usage while driving their usual vehicle. Thus the flow of questioning was designed to provide focus to the respondents when defining their belt use behavior.

Drivers and Vehicles

More than nine out of ten persons age 16 and older drive a motor vehicle. Almost eight out of ten do so almost every day.

Figure1


There were proportionally fewer drivers among the youngest and oldest age groups, racial and ethnic minorities (see page xxvi for group definitions), females, and low income households. The survey found little difference according to urbanicity, as 78% of urban residents, 78% of suburban residents, and 79% of rural residents reported driving almost every day.

TABLE 1
Driving Frequency By Demographic Characteristics

Qx:  How often do you drive a motor vehicle?
Base:  Total population age 16+

  Almost Every Day A Few Days A Week A Few Days A Month A Few Days A Year Never Subsample Size
Age            
16-20 62% 16% 4% 2% 16% (N = 769)
21-24 79% 7% 3% 1% 10% (N = 601)
25-34 85% 5% 1% 1% 8% (N = 2059)
35-44 88% 4% 1% * 5% (N = 1916)
45-54 88% 5% 1% 1% 6% (N = 1063)
55-64 77% 12% 2% * 9% (N = 674)
65+ 60% 23% 2% 1% 14% (N = 956)
             
Sex            
Male 84% 7% 1% 1% 6% (N = 3850)
Female 73% 12% 2% 1% 12% (N = 4365)
             
Race/Ethnicity            
Black 66% 9% 2% 1% 21% (N = 818)
White 82% 10% 1% 1% 6% (N = 6199)
Hispanic 65% 9% 2% 1% 23% (N = 776)
Non-Hispanic 80% 10% 2% 1% 8% (N = 7372)
             
Income            
< $15,000 54% 17% 3% 1% 24% (N = 911)
$15,000-29,999 77% 10% 2% * 10% (N = 1486)
$30,000-49,999 85% 8% 1% 1% 4% (N = 1909)
$50,000-74,999 90% 6% 1% * 3% (N = 1397)
$75,000-99,999 92% 5% 1% 1% 1% (N = 595)
$100,000 > 91% 4% 2% 1% 2% (N = 544)
    * Less than 0.5%

Many households have more than one motor vehicle, so drivers may use more than one. Since the type of safety equipment may vary from one vehicle to another, drivers were asked about the vehicle that they drive most often. Slightly fewer than two-thirds (65%) of drivers use a car as their primary vehicle, followed by 16% who drive a pickup truck, 10% who drive a van or minivan, and 8% who drive a sport utility vehicle.

Figure2
* Includes 0.3% motorcycles and 0.4% other truck.


The survey posed a series of questions to respondents to determine the type of seat belt installed in the front seat of the respondent's primary vehicle. The initial question asked whether it was a lap belt, shoulder belt, or both.

Seat belts in 90% of vehicles went across both the lap and shoulder. Differences were relatively small across vehicle types, although lap only belts were slightly more likely among pickup trucks while shoulder only belts appeared somewhat less frequently among sport utility vehicles. Only 10 vehicles out of a total of almost 7500 reportedly had no seat belts.


TABLE 2
Seat Belt Configuration By Type of Primary Vehicle

Qx:   For the next series of questions, please answer only for the (car/truck/van) you said you usually drive. Do the seat belts in the front seat of the (car/truck/van) go across your shoulder only, across your lap only, or across both your shoulder and lap?
Base:   Vehicle driven most often is not a motorcycle.

Seat Belt Position Total Car Van/Minivan SUV Pickup Truck
(N =**7,486) (N = 4,849) (N = 684) (N = 708) (N = 1,134)
Across shoulder only 7% 8% 7% 4% 7%
Across lap only 2% 1% 2% 1% 5%
Across both 90% 90% 91% 95% 88%
Vehicle has no belts * * - - *
Don't know, refused * * * - *
    * Less than 0.5% - Zero cases
    ** Includes 39 other trucks, 61 other vehicles, and 11 didn't know or didn't respond to vehicle type.

If the front seat belt went across both the shoulder and lap, the survey asked if it was one piece or two separate belts. The survey also asked if the seat belt was automatic. Table 3 shows that


TABLE 3.
Type of Driver Seat Belt In Primary Vehicle
Qx: Do the seat belts in the front seat of the (car/truck/van) go across your shoulder only, across your lap only, or across both your shoulder and lap?
Qx: Are the shoulder and lap belt one piece or are they two separate belts?
Qx: Are both the shoulder and lap belt automatic, is only the shoulder belt automatic or is neither the shoulder or lap belt automatic?
Qx: Is the shoulder belt automatic or do you have to fasten it?
 
N Belt System Type Description Percent
  One-Piece Systems Only one buckle 88%
153 Lap Belt Only One belt that goes across the driver's lap. 2%
5,630 Lap/Shoulder- Manual Combination system that must be pulled and buckled by the driver. 75%
301 Lap/Shoulder-Automatic Combination system that automatically fastens around the driver. 4%
434 Shoulder Only Manual One belt that goes across the driver's shoulder that must be pulled and buckled by the driver. 6%
66 Shoulder Only-Automatic One belt that automatically fastens across the driver's shoulder. 1%
7 One Piece- DK/REF One piece, don't know if automatic/refused to say. 0
  Two-Piece Systems Two separate buckles for lap and shoulder belts 12%
294 Lap Manual/ Shoulder Manual Driver must pull and fasten each belt separately. 4%
493 Lap Manual/ Shoulder Automatic Belt automatically fastens across driver's shoulder but driver must pull and fasten lap belt 6%
51 Lap Automatic/ Shoulder Automatic Each belt automatically fastens around the driver. 1%
3 Two-Piece/DK Two piece, don't know if automatic. 0
30 DK Don't know if one-piece or two-piece. *
     * Less than 0.5%

three quarters (75%) of front seat belts (in primary vehicles) were one-piece manual lap/shoulder systems. Relatively few seat belts (12%) had an automatic component, whether one-piece or two-piece. In addition, 6% of those with automatic belts said that they at least sometimes disconnected, disabled, or placed the belt behind them. Thus if the definition of "automatic" was limited to those seat belts where the automatic function was always being used, then the percentage of all seat belts that were automatic dropped to 11%.

The results also suggested that some people may not fully understand their belt system. Several dozen respondents answered "Don't Know" to one or more basic belt configuration questions. In addition, two-piece lap/shoulder belts where both belts were automatic are not known to exist in the vehicle fleet (i.e., automatic lap belts not having been installed into production vehicles).

Adjustable Shoulder Belt

Drivers were asked if their shoulder belts were adjustable (i.e., their attachment to the door or frame behind the driver's left shoulder can be moved up or down). This feature allows adjustment of the shoulder strap to obtain a more comfortable fit.

More than four out of ten (43%) reported having a shoulder belt that they could adjust, with 52% having non-adjustable shoulder belts. A small percentage (5%) said they were not sure.

Figure3


Six in ten drivers (61%) with adjustable shoulder belts said they had tried to adjust them. More than nine in ten (91%) said their adjustments made the belts more comfortable.

Figure4


Drivers' Use of Seat Belts

The vast majority of drivers (79%) reported using their seat belt "all of the time" while driving. Most of the remaining drivers (12%) said they used their seat belt "most of the time." Few drivers acknowledged that they rarely (2%) or never (2%) wore their seat belt.(1)

Figure5


The type of seat belt made a difference in whether persons wore it or not. Among those belt systems not containing an automatic component, the highest usage occurred with one-piece manual lap and shoulder belts as 80% indicated that they buckled up "all the time." The least usage occurred with lap-only seat belts; only 61% reported wearing these belts all the time.

Figure6


A key question about two-piece belt systems is whether persons who wear their shoulder belt also put on their lap belt (lap and shoulder belts used together are the most effective form of restraint use for preventing injuries and fatalities). As shown in Figure 7, if the shoulder belt was manual and used all the time, then 88% of drivers said that they also wore their lap belt all the time. But if the shoulder belt was automatic and used all of the time, then only 62% said they wore their lap belt all the time [this analysis excluded systems reported to have both an automatic lap belt and an automatic shoulder belt because they were considered to be errors in belt identification by respondents].

Figure7


Group Differences In Reported Seat Belt Use

Table 4 presents group differences in reported seat belt use by drivers while driving. The "all of the time" response category is the primary index employed by this survey to describe level of seat belt use. It therefore provides a good point of reference for readers to focus upon in reviewing the Table.

The data were consistent with previous research. One of the largest differentiating factors in belt use was the sex of the driver. Females (84%) were significantly more likely to report "all the time" use than males (74%). As expected, reported usage was somewhat lower among the youngest driver age groups.

Blacks (75%) were somewhat less likely to report "all the time" use compared to whites (79%).(2) At the same time, Hispanics (85%) recorded higher levels of reported "all the time" usage than non-Hispanics (79%). It bears noting that a large proportion of Hispanics in the study sample resided in states whose seat belt laws contained provisions permitting standard (as opposed to secondary) enforcement of seat belt violations.(3) In particular, a substantial proportion of the Hispanic subsample resided in California, which has standard enforcement provisions as well as the highest observed seat belt usage rate of any state according to 1998 figures.

The higher the household income, the more likely that drivers said they wore their seat belt "all the time." The most highly educated segment of the population also was more likely to report full time usage. Little difference emerged between rural (77%), suburban (80%), and urban (80%) populations in "all the time" usage. But if drivers usually drove a pickup truck then reported usage tended to be lower; only 65% said they wore their seat belt all of the time.

Table 4 also lists reported seat belt usage by weight and height for each sex. In presenting the data, the sample was divided into approximate quartiles (clustering of data prevented the construction of groups of equal size). For both sexes, the lowest reported belt use occurred among the heaviest quartile: males more than 205 pounds and females more than 160 pounds. Height did not show the same level of differentiation as did weight.


 

TABLE 4
Driver Seat Belt Use By Demographic And Other Characteristics

Qx: When driving this [vehicle], how often do you wear your [lap/shoulder] belt?
Base: Drivers whose primary vehicle has seat belts.

  All Of The Time Most of the Time Some Of The Time Rarely Never Subsample Size
Total 79% 12% 5% 2% 2% (N=7,462)
             
Sex            
Male 74% 13% 6% 3% 4% (N=3,569)
Female 84% 10% 3% 1% 1% (N=3,893)
             
Age            
16-20 77% 12% 5% 4% 3% (N=644)
21-24 75% 15% 6% 3% 1% (N=543)
25-34 76% 12% 6% 3% 3% (N=1,900)
35-44 79% 12% 4% 2% 3% (N=1,818)
45-54 82% 10% 4% 1% 3% (N=993)
55-64 78% 12% 6% 2% 2% (N=609)
65+ 84% 11% 4% 1% 1% (N=808)
             
Race            
Black 75% 13% 8% 2% 2% (N=663)
White 79% 12% 5% 2% 2% (N=5,812)
Other 85% 10% 3% 1% 2% (N=707)
Multi-Race 81% 9% 4% 3% 3% (N=164)
             
Ethnicity            
Hispanic 85% 9% 3% 1% 2% (N=601)
Non-Hispanic 79% 12% 5% 2% 2% (N=6811)
             
Education            
11 Or Less 78% 11% 6% 2% 3% (N=786)
HS Grad/GED 75% 13% 6% 2% 4% (N=2,264)
Some College 78% 13% 5% 2% 2% (N=1,953)
College Grad 85% 10% 3% 2% 1% (N=2,404)
 
  All Of The Time Most Of The Time Some Of The Time Rarely Never Subsample Size
Income            
<$15,000 74% 13% 6% 3% 3% (N=691)
$15,000-29,999 76% 13% 6% 2% 2% (N=1,342)
$30,000-49,999 77% 13% 5% 2% 4% (N=1,823)
$50,000-74,999 81% 11% 4% 2% 2% (N=1,357)
$75,000-99,999 83% 10% 4% 1% 1% (N=583)
$100,000+ 86% 9% 2% 1% 1% (N=527)
             
Child Under Age 16 In Household 78% 12% 5% 2% 3% (N=3122)
No Child Under 16 In Household 80% 11% 5% 2% 2% (N=4328)
             
Urbanicity 80% 11% 5% 2% 2% (N=2,227)
Urban 80% 11% 5% 2% 2% (N=3,633)
Suburban 77% 14% 5% 2% 3% (N=1,602)
Rural            
             
Vehicle Type 82% 10% 4% 2% 1% (N=4,841)
Car 83% 10% 4% 1% 3% (N=681)
Van/MiniVan 65% 17% 9% 4% 6% (N=1,127)
Pickup 80% 12% 4% 1% 3% (N=708)
SUV            
             
Injured In Crash 77% 12% 5% 3% 3% (N=2,195)
Yes 80% 11% 4% 2% 2% (N=5,260)
No            
 
All Of The Time Most Of The Time Some Of The Time Rarely Never Subsample Size
Weight            
             
Males            
90-162 lbs 72% 17% 5% 1% 5% (N=434)
163-180 lbs 78% 11% 5% 3% 3% (N=437)
181-205 lbs 79% 12% 5% 2% 2% (N=447)
206+ lbs 67% 14% 9% 3% 7% (N=422)
             
Females            
85-125 lbs 86% 10% 2% 1% 1% (N=506)
126-140 lbs 85% 9% 2% 3% 2% (N=468)
141-160 lbs 83% 9% 3% 3% 1% (N=418)
161+ lbs 77% 15% 5% 1% 1% (N=412)
             
Height            
             
Males            
4'3"-5'8" 77% 12% 6% 2% 3% (N=520)
5'9"-5'10" 72% 15% 5% 3% 4% (N=409)
5'11"-6'0" 74% 12% 6% 3% 5% (N=459)
6'1"+ 72% 15% 7% 2% 4% (N=367)
             
Females            
4'0"-5'2" 83% 11% 4% 2% 1% (N=491)
5'3"-5'4" 81% 11% 4% 3% 2% (N=513)
5'5"-5'6" 86% 9% 2% 1% 1% (N=434)
5'7"+ 84% 11% 3% 1% 1% (N=446)

Relating Seat Belt Use To Other (Problem) Behaviors

Past research has suggested that persons who do not wear their seat belt are more likely to engage in other unsafe or unhealthy behaviors. The 1998 Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey asked questions on alcohol use of all 8,215 respondents (i.e., the items were on both questionnaires), and questions on driving speed of the 4,000+ respondents who received Questionnaire Version #1. Tables 5 and 6 show drivers' reported belt use according to how persons answered these questions.

Whether or not persons had consumed alcohol in the recent past did not make much difference in reported seat belt use, with only a slightly higher percentage of non-drinkers (82%) than drinkers (78%) reporting "all the time" use. Rather, what seemed to matter was the manner in how people drank. Those drivers who typically had 1 drink on the days they drank reported the highest belt use among drinkers: 84% said they wore their seat belt all of the time. Reported all the time use declined to 76% for those who averaged 2-3 drinks, 69% for those who averaged 4-6, and 53% for those who averaged more than 6. Among those persons who stated that they had driven a vehicle after drinking alcohol within the past 30 days, 71% claimed they wore their seat belt all of the time while driving. If they acknowledged driving when they thought they had consumed too much alcohol to drive safely, all the time use fell to 60% (although the number of persons who conceded that they drove after drinking too much was small).

Reported seat belt use was lower among persons who tended to drive faster. The survey asked drivers which statement best described their highway driving: "I tend to pass other cars more often than other cars pass me" or "Other cars tend to pass me more often." Those who tended to pass others were less likely to report wearing their seat belt all the time (73% compared to 82% of those who tended to drive slower than the prevailing traffic). The survey also asked how fast the respondents generally drove on a highway with a posted speed limit of 55 miles per hour. As reported driving speeds increased, acknowledged belt use declined.


TABLE 5
Driver Seat Belt Use By Alcohol Use

Qx: When driving this [vehicle] how often do you wear your [lap/shoulder] belt?
Qx: During the past 30 days, have you had at least one drink of any alcoholic beverage, including liquor, beer, wine or wine coolers?
Qx: Did you drink any alcoholic beverages at all during the past 12 months?
Qx: On the average, how many drinks did you typically have on the days you drank?
Qx: During the past 30 days, have you driven a vehicle after you had been drinking alcohol?
Qx: In the past 30 days, have you driven a vehicle when you thought you might have consumed too much alcohol to drive safely?
Base: Drivers whose primary vehicle has seat belts.
  All Of The Time Most Of The Time Some Of The Time Rarely Never N
Alcohol Use:            
Within Past 30 Days 78% 12% 5% 2% 3% (4041)
In Past Year, But 78% 11% 6% 3% 2% (995)
Not Past 30 Days          
Not In Past Year 82% 11% 4% 2% 2% (2401)
             
Usual Number Of Drinks:            
1 84% 10% 3% 1% 2% (1827)
2-3 76% 12% 6% 2% 3% (2311)
4-6 69% 15% 6% 5% 5% (620)
7 or more 53% 17% 13% 12% 5% (154)
             
Drank And Drove In Past 30 Days 71% 15% 7% 4% 4% (1015)
Drank Too Much And Drove In Past 30 Days 60% 11% 12% 7% 10% (71)


TABLE 6
Driver Seat Belt Use By Driving Speed

Qx: When driving this [vehicle], how often do you wear your [lap/shoulder] belt?
Qx: Which statement best describes your highway driving: I tend to pass other cars more often than other cars pass me, or other cars tend to pass me more often?
Qx: In general, how fast do you drive on a highway with a posted speed limit of 55 mph?
Base: Drivers whose primary vehicle has seat belts.
  All Of The Time Most Of The Time Some Of The Time Rarely Never N
I tend to pass other cars more often 73% 14% 6% 3% 4% (1253)
             
Other cars tend to pass me more often 82% 11% 4% 2% 2% (2095)
             
Neither, I drive the same as others 82% 8% 6% 1% 2% (190)
             
Normal speed on
55mph highway:
           
55 or less 83% 9% 4% 2% 2% (1066)
56-60 79% 12% 5% 2% 3% (1578)
61-70 73% 15% 5% 3% 3% (922)
More than 70 69% 17% 2% 5% 7% (85)

Comparing Reported To Observed Seat Belt Use

Reported seat belt usage tends to be higher than observed usage for methodological and psychological reasons. NHTSA conducted a national observation survey of seat belt use close in time to the field period for this telephone survey (the National Occupant Protection Use Survey, commonly known as NOPUS). Table 7 compares results from the two surveys for drivers. "All of the time" use is the selected measure for the telephone survey. The two surveys detected similar patterns. Both found substantial differences between males and females, and between drivers of passenger cars and pickup trucks. They also detected slightly higher use by whites compared to blacks. Unlike the telephone survey, the observation survey recorded much lower usage within the younger driver ages, and higher usage in urban areas compared to suburban and rural.



TABLE 7
Reported Seat Belt Use Compared To Observed Use By Drivers

  1998 MVOSS
(National Telephone Survey)
"All Of The Time"
1998 NOPUS
(National Observation Survey)
Drivers
Total Drivers 79% 69.6%
     
Male 74% 64.3%
Female 84% 77.7%
     
Black 75% 67.5%
White 79% 70.3%
     
Age 16-24 76% 58.4%
Age 25-69 79% 70.5%
Age 70+ 85% 76.4%
     
Passenger Cars 82% 73.8%
Pickup Trucks 65% 52.8%
     
Urban 80% 74.5%
Suburban 80% 67.6%
Rural 77% 67.0%


Clarifying Reported Usage

Questionnaire development during 1994 included cognitive testing. During the testing, subjects were asked how often they wore their seat belt while driving their usual vehicle. Most said "all the time." The interviewers then followed that question with a cognitive probe, asking the subjects when was the last time they did not wear their seat belt while driving. A number of persons who had just previously said that they wore their seat belt "all of the time" while driving responded "yesterday" or even that very morning. It thus appeared that some subjects chose to


TABLE 8
Last Time Drivers Did Not Wear Seat Belt
By Frequency Of Reported Seat Belt Use

Qx: When driving this [vehicle] how often do you wear your [lap/shoulder] belt?
Qx: When was the last time you did not wear your seat belt (neither lap nor shoulder) while driving?
Qx: Has there been any occasion in the past 12 months when you did not wear your seat belt (neither lap nor shoulder) when driving?
Base: Drivers whose primary vehicle has seat belts, and who at least on occasion wear seat belts.
Last Time Seat
Belt Not Worn
All Of The Time Most Of The Time Some Of The Time Rarely
(N=5863) (N=872) (N=354) (N=186)
Today 4% 32% 64% 75%
         
Past Week 6% 40% 28% 17%
         
Past Month 4% 12% 4% 4%
         
Past Year 4% 3% 2% 2%
         
DK/Within Past Year(4) 3% 6% * 2%
         
Year Or More Ago 79% 7% 3% *

interpret the initial usage question in a way that differed from the exact wording of the item.

NHTSA included the cognitive probe in the survey. As shown in Table 8, 10% of drivers who said that they wore their seat belts "all of the time" immediately acknowledged not using their seat belt while driving in the past day or week. More than 70% of self-reported "most of the time" users admitted recent non-use, indicating that usage by at least some people in this category may be much more sporadic than the label would suggest. In general, the data implied a significant difference in usage between the "all of the time" and "most of the time" categories.


Revised Comparison of Reported To Observed Seat Belt Use

Table 9 shows what happens when "all of the time" users who conceded not wearing their seat belt in the past day or week while driving were subtracted from the "all of the time" category. The remaining percentages of "all of the time" users closely approximated the observation figures for drivers. In addition, the gap on the telephone survey between the youngest and older drivers widened to become more comparable to the observation data. This indicated a greater tendency by younger drivers to categorize themselves as "all of the time" users when they had not worn their seat belts recently.


TABLE 9
Revised Reported Seat Belt Use
Compared To Observed Use By Drivers

  1998 MVOSS
(Telephone Survey)
"All Of The Time"
Revised 1998 MVOSS
(Telephone Survey)
"All Of The Time"
(Excludes past day or week non-users)
1998 NOPUS
(Observation Survey)
Drivers
Total Drivers 79.2% 71.4% 69.6%
       
Males 74.1% 65.4% 64.3%
Females 84.2% 77.2% 77.7%
     
Blacks 75.2% 69.5% 67.5%
Whites 78.9% 70.9% 70.3%
       
Age 16-24 76.0% 63.9% 58.4%
Age 25-69 79.1% 72.2% 70.5%
Age 70+ 85.0% 76.7% 76.4%
       
Passenger Cars 82.3% 74.3% 73.8%
Pickup Trucks 64.7% 57.6% 52.8%
       
Urban 79.7% 71.8% 74.5%
Suburban 79.7% 72.2% 67.6%
Rural 77.4% 68.9% 67.0%

Reported Changes In Belt Use

Besides questioning drivers about their current seat belt usage, the survey asked respondents whether their use of seat belts when driving had changed in the past 12 months. Most (84%) said that their usage had stayed the same. Fifteen percent answered that it had increased while 1% reported a decrease.

Figure8


Regional Differences

NHTSA segments the country into ten regions for programmatic outreach. Table 10 shows both change in belt use and frequency of belt use reported across the ten regions.


TABLE 10
Patterns Of Reported Driver Seat Belt Use By NHTSA Region

Qx: When driving this [vehicle], how often do you wear your [lap/shoulder] belt?
Qx: In the past 12 months, has your use of seat belts when driving (car driven most often) increased, decreased, or stayed the same?
Base: Drivers whose primary vehicle has seat belts.
NHTSA
Regions
States Change In Seat Belt Use
Within Past Year
(N=3703)
Percent Of Drivers
Reporting Using
Seat Belt
"All The Time"
(N=7448)
Increased Decreased
I CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT 14% - 73%
         
II NJ, NY 12% 1% 79%
         
III DE, DC, MD, PA, VA, WV 17% - 76%
         
IV AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN 17% 1% 78%
         
V IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI 17% 1% 76%
         
VI AR, LA, NM, OK, TX 16% * 83%
         
VII IA, KS, MO, NE 22% 1% 70%
         
VIII CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY 17% 1% 71%
         
IX AZ, CA, HI, NV 10% 1% 92%
         
X AK, ID, OR, WA 11% 1% 82%
         
  TOTAL 15% 1% 79%
    * Less than 0.5% - Zero cases


No more than 1% of drivers in any region reported that their use of seat belts in the past year when driving had decreased. The percentage of drivers who said that their usage had increased ranged from 10% in NHTSA Region IX to 22% in NHTSA Region VII. In some regions, smaller reported 12-month increases may reflect higher pre-existing usage rates that limited the amount of potential gain. For example, Region IX also recorded the highest overall usage rate: 92% of drivers said they wore their seat belts all of the time while driving. Readers are cautioned that some of the regional percentages are based on very small numbers. In particular, Regions I (187), VII (196), VIII (138), and X (167) all included fewer than 200 cases in computing the percentage increase/decrease.


Demographic Differences

According to the data in Table 11, persons who were younger, had less years of formal schooling, or were black were more likely to report that their use of seat belts as drivers increased in the past 12 months. This may again reflect how much opportunity there was to post a gain as these groups have in the past been associated with lower levels of seat belt use.

Among the groups listed, the percentage of drivers who reported an increase in seat belt use was highest for those who were ages 21-24 (26%), black (25%), or had less than a high school education (23%). Neither Hispanic origin, nor the sex of the driver, produced variation in the reported increase.


Table 11
Reported Changes In Driver's Use Of Seat Belts In The Past Year
By Demographic Characteristics

Qx: In the past 12 months, has your use of seat belts when driving (car driven most often) increased, decreased, or stayed the same?
Base: Drivers whose primary vehicle has seat belts.
Characteristic Unweighted N Increased Decreased Stayed The Same
Age        
   16-20 (326) 18% 2% 78%
   21-24 (267) 26% * 72%
   25-34 (981) 17% 1% 81%
   35-44 (875) 17% * 83%
   45-54 (506) 11% * 89%
   55-64 (297) 12% * 87%
   65+ (412) 13% * 86%
Sex        
   Male (1772) 16% 1% 83%
   Female (1931) 15% 1% 84%
Race        
   Black (353) 25% 1% 74%
   White (2855) 15% 1% 84%
Ethnicity        
   Hispanic (309) 15% - 85%
   Non-Hispanic (3368) 15% 1% 83%
Education        
   HS < (379) 23% * 76%
   HS Grad (1159) 18% 1% 81%
   Some College (938) 15% 1% 83%
   College Grad (1197) 10% * 90%
    * Less than 0.5% - Zero Cases


Reasons For Change

Drivers who said that their use of seat belts had increased over the past 12 months were asked what caused the change. Unlike previous years, the question was structured to obtain a reaction from the respondents to specific reasons rather than presented as an open-ended item. Thus interviewers read six potential reasons to the respondents, who then indicated for each whether it was a cause of their increased seat belt use. The interviewers also gave the respondents the opportunity to volunteer other reasons. Most often, the drivers ascribed their increased use of seat belts to a greater awareness of safety (53%). Belt laws (25%), pressure or encouragement from others (23%), and avoidance of a ticket (22%) also emerged as significant reasons.

Figure9


Company Seat Belt Policy

Thirty-four percent of drivers at least sometimes drove a vehicle as part of a job or business (not including driving to and from work). This was more prevalent among males (45%) than females (24%). If someone drove on the job, it usually occurred at least several days a week. More than one-half (56%) of those who drove on the job said they did so almost every day, another 26% said they did so a few days a week.

Figure10

Less than one-half of drivers (48%) who drove on the job believed their company had a policy requiring seat belt use when driving on the job. Almost as many (45%) said there was no policy and 6% were unsure. Among those who thought their company had a policy, two-thirds (67%) claimed it was a written policy. About one-quarter (25%) did not believe the policy was written, and 8% were unsure. In total, 32% of those who drove as part of a job or business reported that their company had a written policy requiring the use of seat belts when driving on the job.

Figure11


Company Enforcement of Seat Belt Policy

If workers believed that their company had a seat belt policy, they also tended to believe that it was enforced at least to some degree. One-half (50%) of drivers who drove on the job and believed their company had a seat belt policy said that the policy was enforced "very strictly." Another 24% stated that it was "somewhat strictly" enforced. Only about two persons in ten answered that the policy was not too strictly enforced (12%) or not enforced at all (8%).

Figure12


Company enforcement of seat belt policy may take the form of requests, notices, visual checks, warnings, suspensions, dismissals, or fines. Among drivers who drove on the job and reported at least some enforcement of their company seat belt policy, the most frequently identified approaches were those that solicited cooperation from employees without attaching penalties (21%), followed by suspensions or dismissals (19%). Almost as many workers (18%) mentioned that the company "kept an eye out" to check that seat belts were being worn. About one in four persons (24%) who were asked the question either did not know how their company enforced its policy or would not say.



Table 12
How Employer Enforces Seat Belt Policy

Qx: How does your company enforce its seat belt policy?
Base: Drives a vehicle as part of a job and believes company (very, somewhat, or not too strictly) enforces seat belt policy.
Unweighted N=568
Method Percent
Ask To Wear (No Penalty Specified) 21%
Boss/supervisor asks employees to wear their seat belts 13%
Written notices/posted instructions (unspecified) 4%
Safety meetings/safety talk every week 3%
Written notice in company vehicle 2%
Warnings 15%
Written reprimand in your file 9%
Boss/supervisor gives daily verbal warning 5%
A warning on your vehicle window 2%
Initial warning 2%
Suspensions/Dismissals 19%
Dismissed after multiple infractions 12%
Suspended for non-compliance/suspended after warning 9%
Dismissed after one infraction 1%
Any other suspension/dismissal mentions **
Fined 3%
Fined/fine deducted from paycheck 3%
Miscellaneous 31%
People keep eye out to see/check you are wearing seat belt 18%
Left up to individual/not really enforced 6%
Offender pays ticket 2%
Medical coverage is void if not wearing seat belt 2%
Any other miscellaneous mentions 6%
Don't Know/No Answer 24%
    ** Less than 0.5%
    Categories sum to more than 100% because more than one response was allowed.


Seat Belt Use At Work and Company Policy

Those persons who drove as part of their job were asked if there was any difference in their seat belt use between their work and personal driving. Skipped out of the item were persons who had indicated that they never wore their seat belt when driving.

A majority of drivers (70%) said that there was no difference in their seat belt use when driving on the job as compared to when driving for personal use. However, 24% claimed they were more likely to wear their seat belts on the job, whereas 5% reported that they were less likely to wear them at work.

Figure13


Of those more likely to wear their seat belt when driving on the job, the most frequent reason was because of company policy (41%), followed by an increased awareness of safety (23%). Among the few drivers who said they wore their seat belt less frequently when driving on the job, the single most common reason was that they were in and out of the vehicle all the time (27%).

Figure14


A key question is whether or not the presence of a company seat belt policy affects employee seat belt use. The item asking respondents to compare their seat belt use when driving for work to their usage during personal driving provides one means for exploring this issue. Figure 15 compares the responses to this question from drivers who thought their company had a seat belt policy to those who did not think there was a company policy. It shows that drivers were about twice as likely to report higher seat belt use on the job if they believed their company had a seat belt policy (31% to 16%).

Figure15


Figure 15 assessed whether company policies were associated with reported differences in seat belt usage between work and personal driving. However, it did not address the question of whether the presence of a company seat belt policy affected usage during both types of driving. Figure 16 looks at general reported seat belt usage (i.e, not associated with a particular type of driving) for persons who drove on the job and did, or did not, believe that their company had a seat belt policy. This analysis included persons who said they never wore their seat belts while driving. According to the data, 80% of drivers who thought their company had a policy said they wore their seat belts "all of the time" compared to 70% who did not think there was a company policy.

Figure16


Passenger Use of Seat Belts

More than 90% of the public ride as passengers in motor vehicles at least on occasion. Thirteen percent do so almost every day while larger numbers ride as passengers either a few days a week (34%) or a few days a month (31%).

Figure17


The vast majority of persons age 16 and older (89%) usually sit in the front seat when riding as passengers in motor vehicles. Persons ages 16 through19 (85%) and 60 and older (85%) were least likely to usually sit in the front.

Figure18


As noted on page 10, 79% of drivers said that they used their seat belt "all of the time" while driving. Reported seat belt usage was somewhat lower on the front seat passenger side. Just under three-fourths (74%) answered that they wore their seat belt "all of the time" when riding as a passenger in the front seat.

Figure19


Seat belt use may be affected by whether a person is sitting in their normal seating position as irregular situations could interfere with established habits. However, for the front seat passenger position, the data showed little difference in reported usage between persons who normally rode in the front as passengers and those who normally rode in the back. Seventy-four percent of persons who normally rode in the front seat as passengers said they always wore their seat belt when riding as front seat passengers. Seventy-one percent of those who normally rode in the back seat said they always wore their seat belt when riding as front seat passengers.


  

TABLE 13
Frequency Wear Seat Belt As Front Seat Passenger
By Where Usually Ride As Passenger

Qx: When you are a passenger, do you usually ride in the front seat or the back seat?
Qx: When riding as a passenger in the front seat how often do you wear your seat belt?
Base: At least sometimes rides as a passenger.
Frequency of Front Seat Passenger
Seat Belt Use
Where Usually Ride As Passenger
Front Seat Back Seat Don't Know
(N=3449) (N=266) (N=116)
All Of The Time 74% 71% 78%
       
Most Of The Time 14% 13% 7%
       
Some Of The Time 6% 6% 3%
       
Rarely 3% 3% 2%
       
Never 4% 5% 8%
       
Never Ride In Front Seat - 2% -
       
Don't Know -- -- 1%
    - Zero cases

Seat belt use was substantially lower in back seat passenger positions. Only 43% of persons said that they always wore their seat belt when riding as a passenger in the back seat. Almost one in five (17%) reported never wearing seat belts in the back seat. It bears repeating, however, that the vast majority of adults usually rode in the front seat (see page 39).

Figure20


As with the front seat (page 41), seat belt use in the back did not vary substantially according to the person's normal seating position. Forty-two percent of those who normally rode in the front seat as passengers said they always wore their seat belt when riding in the back. Forty-six percent of those who normally rode in the back seat said they always wore their seat belt when riding as back seat passengers. Interestingly, for both the front and back seats, reported "all the time" use was higher among persons who usually rode in that seating position. The differences were small, however, and only a small number of persons said they usually rode in the back.


TABLE 14
Frequency Wear Seat Belt As Back Seat Passenger
By Where Usually Ride As Passenger

Qx: When you are a passenger, do you usually ride in the front seat or the back seat?
Qx: When riding as a passenger in the back seat how often do you wear your seat belt?
Base: At least sometimes rides as a passenger.
Frequency of Back Seat
Passenger Seat Belt Use
Where Usually Ride As Passenger
Front Seat Back Seat Don't Know
(N=3449) (N=266) (N=116)
All Of The Time 42% 46% 51%
       
Most Of The Time 12% 13% 16%
       
Some Of The Time 11% 15% 12%
       
Rarely 9% 11% 4%
       
Never 17% 15% 15%
       
Never Ride In Back 8% - 2%
       
Don't Know * -- --
    * Less than 0.5% - Zero cases

People were fairly consistent in their reported seat belt use as drivers and front seat passengers. Nine in ten (90%) who said they used their seat belt all the time when driving also said they wore their seat belt all the time while riding as front seat passengers. Three-fourths (75%) of those who rarely or never wore their seat belts while driving also rarely or never used them as front seat passengers.



 

TABLE 15
Frequency Of Seat Belt Use As Driver By
Frequency Of Seat Belt Use As Front Seat Passenger

Qx: When driving this [vehicle], how often do you wear your [lap/shoulder] belt?
Qx: When riding as a passenger in the front seat how often do you wear your seat belt?
Base: Drivers whose primary vehicle has seat belts and who at least sometimes ride as passengers.
Frequency Of Seat
Belt Use as Front
Seat Passenger
Belt Use As Driver
All The Time Most Of The Time Some Of The Time Rarely/Never
(N=2718) (N=409) (N=160) (N=177)
All Of The Time 90% 24% 12% 5%
         
Most Of The Time 7% 58% 15% 5%
         
Some Of The Time 2% 13% 52% 14%
         
Rarely/Never 1% 5% 21% 75%
         
Never Ride In Front * - - 1%
         
Don't Know * - - -
    * Less than 0.5% - Zero cases

Even those who normally wore their seat belts in the front seat were less inclined to wear their seat belts in the back. Only 53% of persons who said they always wore seat belts while driving also said they always wore them as back seat passengers. Fewer than one-third of persons who wore seat belts "most of the time" as drivers either always (11%) or most of the time (20%) wore them when riding in the back.


TABLE 16
Frequency Of Seat Belt Use As Driver By
Frequency Of Seat Belt Use As Back Seat Passenger

Qx: When driving this [vehicle], how often do you wear your [lap/shoulder] belt?
Qx: When riding as a passenger in the back seat how often do you wear your seat belt?
Base: Drivers whose primary vehicle has seat belts and who at least sometimes ride as passengers.
Frequency Of Seat
Belt Use As Back
Seat Passenger
Belt Use As Driver
All The Time Most Of The Time Some Of The Time Rarely/Never
(N=2718) (N=409) (N=160) (N=177)
All Of The Time 53% 11% 4% 1%
         
Most Of The Time 13% 20% 3% 1%
         
Some Of The Time 11% 13% 17% 3%
         
Rarely/Never 17% 46% 68% 87%
         
Never Ride In Back 6% 9% 8% 8%
         
Don't Know * * - -
    * Less than 0.5% - Zero cases




1. Frequency of seat belt use was determined by combining the two questions which asked how often drivers wore their lap belt and their shoulder belt. Values were assigned by taking the highest response for either question. For example, if a respondent stated that s/he wore a shoulder belt "all of the time" but a lap belt "most of the time", the respondent was assigned to the category "all the time."

2. See operational definition on page xxvi

3. See page 134 for more information on standard and secondary enforcement.

4. Note: "DK/Within Past Year" refers to those who weren't sure when asked the last time they did not wear their seat belt, but who recalled not wearing it at some time in the past year.