A study was conducted to assess the impact of a Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (S.T.E.P.) on seat belt usage in the Ottawa area. The program consisted of greater police surveillance, increased charging of violators and mass media publicity of the program. It was predicted that during the program in Ottawa there would be increases in actual number of charges issued, public perception of number of charges issued, subjective probability of being charged, self-reported seat belt usage and observed seat belt usage. It was further predicted that after STEP, these positive changes would still be apparent. In contrast, no changes in these variables were expected in Kingston, the control city, where there was no change in the enforcement of the seat belt legislation. Seat belt usage surveys and telephone surveys were conducted in Ottawa and Kingston, before, during, one month and six months after the program. For the survey of seat belt usage, sites, time of week and times of day, and observers were constant for all four survey waves. A stratified sample of drivers was interviewed concerning attitudes toward seat belts, use of seat belts, subjective probability of being charged for violating the seat belt legislation, perceived level of enforcement, and attitudes toward the seat belt legislation and its enforcement. The effects of increased enforcement on traffic violations and on attitude changes were studied. Self-reported usage also increased in Ottawa but not in Kingston. One month and six months after the program, observed and self-reported seat belt usage was still higher than the baseline level in Ottawa but subjective probability had returned to baseline level. The data supported predictions for Ottawa suggesting that the effects of increased enforcement on traffic violations for Ottawa suggesting that the effects of increased enforcement on traffic violations may be mediated by subjective probability of being charged. The unexpected increase in subjective probability of being charged in Kingston in the absence of any change in seat belt enforcement may have been the result of an increase in the enforcement of other traffic offences (e.g. speeding) which suggests that selective traffic enforcement may have carry-over effects to other offences. The failure to observe an increase in compliance with an increase in subjective probability suggests that a threshold of subjective probability may have to be attained before compliance occurs. Unexpected attitude changes are discussed in terms of reactance. (A)

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Psychological Association, June 1980 in Calgary, Alberta.
  • Corporate Authors:

    Transport Canada

    Road and Motor Vehicle Traffic Safety Branch
    Ottawa, ONo K1A 0N5,   Canada 
  • Authors:
    • Jonah, B A
    • Dawson, N E
    • Smith, Gary A
    • KIRBY, D
  • Publication Date: 1981-5

Media Info

  • Features: Appendices; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 39 p.

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00335914
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Report/Paper Numbers: TP 3126 E, HS-032 275
  • Created Date: Nov 23 1981 12:00AM