Getting Americans to Buckle Up: The Efficacy of State Seat Belt Laws

The use of safety belts has increased since New York was the first state to adopt the seat belt law in 1984. Earlier studies on the effect of these laws focused primarily on the enforcement provisions of these statutes. The present study examines not only the enforcement provision, but also the effect of statutory fines and seat coverage on state observed use rates for the years 1991 to 2001. Analysis was done by using time-series cross-section regression methods. Results showed that seat belt laws were associated with higher use rates and that the enforcement provision does matter. Primary states experience belt use rates that average 9.1 percentage points higher than that of their secondary counterparts. The level of the fine imposed by statute was shown to have an effect on safety belt use apart from that attributable to the enforcement provision. The current median fine of $25 was associated with an additional 3.8 percentage points increase in belt use over no fine. To better enhance the use of safety belts, the article recommends that states adopt primary enforcement and impose fines of at least $50 for violating a seat belt law.


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  • Accession Number: 01014855
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, ATRI
  • Created Date: Dec 7 2005 12:48AM