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Short-Term, High-Visibility Child Passenger Safety Law Enforcement

Effectiveness: 5 Star Cost: $$$
Use: Medium
Time: Medium

As noted in the previous section, high-visibility short-duration seat belt law enforcement programs, such as CIOT have proven to be effective at increasing seat belt use. NHTSA typically includes child restraint and booster seat use and enforcement as a part of their CIOT campaigns (although adult seat belt use is the focus of CIOT). There is concern that law enforcement officers are reluctant to enforce child restraint laws due to competing priorities within their departments and a lack of knowledge on the part of officers on the subject of child restraints (Decina et al., 2008; Decina et al., 1994; NHTSA, 1990). More recent research demonstrates that effective approaches for enforcing child restraint laws – in particular, booster seat laws – are possible, but they depend on top management support and enforcement methods that are dedicated to booster seat and other child restraint laws (Decina et al., 2010).

As with HVE aimed at adult occupants, enforcement of child restraint/booster laws should be coupled with high-visibility communications and outreach (Solomon, Compton, & Preusser, 2004). Paid advertising can be a critical part of the media strategy. Paid advertising brings with it the ability to control message content, timing, placement, and repetition (Milano et al., 2004).


Many States currently conduct short-term, high-visibility child restraint/booster seat law enforcement programs in May of each year as part of national seat belt mobilizations and in September as part of Child Passenger Safety Week.


In their systematic review of evidence of effectiveness for child restraint interventions, Zaza et al. (2001) determined that community-wide information plus enhanced enforcement campaigns were effective in increasing child restraint use. Decina et al. (2010) found that the most effective approaches for enforcing booster seat laws depend on top management support to enforce these laws, having resources to support dedicated booster seat law enforcement programs, and enforcement methods that are dedicated to booster seat and other child restraint laws.

Barriers to enhanced enforcement programs, especially as related to booster seats, include: low awareness of child restraint laws among parents/caregivers; low perception of risk to child passengers; lack of knowledge about the safety benefits of booster seats among the public; lack of knowledge about the safety benefits of booster seats among law enforcement officers and members of the courts; low threat of being ticketed for violations; and lack of commitment to CPS by law enforcement top management (Decina, et al., 2008).


High-visibility enforcement campaigns are expensive. They require extensive time from SHSOs, time from law enforcement officers to conduct the enforcement, and time from communications staff and often from consultants to develop, produce, and distribute publicity. Paid advertising increases a campaign’s effectiveness but can be expensive.

Time to implement:

An HVE program requires 4 to 6 months to plan and implement.