5.1 Short-Term High-Visibility Child Restraint/Booster Law Enforcement
As noted in Section 2.1, high-visibility short-duration belt law enforcement programs, such as Click It or Ticket, have proven to be the most effective countermeasure to date for increasing seat belt use. NHTSA typically includes child restraint and booster seat use and enforcement as a part of their Click It or Ticket campaigns (although adult seat belt use is the main focus of CIOT, as demonstrated in the type of citations issued and depicted in the accompanying paid advertising, earned media, and social media). There is concern that LEOs are reluctant to enforce child restraint laws due to competing priorities in 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, Hall, & Lococo, 2010).
As with HVE aimed at adult occupants (Section 3.1), enforcement of child restraint/booster laws should be coupled with high-visibility communications and outreach (Solomon et al., 2003). 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).
Use: Most 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 (Solomon et al., 2004; Solomon et al., 2007) and in September as part of Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Week.
Effectiveness: 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.
Costs: High-visibility enforcement campaigns are expensive. They require extensive time from State highway safety offices, time from LEOs to conduct the enforcement, and time from media staff and often from consultants to develop, produce, and distribute publicity. Paid advertising increases a campaign’s effectiveness but can be quite expensive.
Time to implement: An HVE program requires 4 to 6 months to plan and implement.
- Barriers to enhanced enforcement programs: Decina et al. (2008) concluded that 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 LEOs and members of the courts; low threat of being ticketed for violations; and lack of commitment to child passenger safety by law enforcement top management.
- Strategies to enhance enforcement programs: 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. These elements are in addition to other aspects that have typically been used to maximize the results of child restraint enforcement efforts (NHTSA, 1990). Specifically, effective program components that have worked over time include: media coverage of enforcement and public information by the local press and radio and television stations; training of LEOs in the benefits of child passenger safety and methods of effective law enforcement; information aimed at target audiences; information coinciding with community events; a network of child restraint inspection stations; child restraint distribution programs; and PSAs and other media coverage.