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Effectiveness and efficiency of safety belt and child restraint usage programs
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Effectiveness and efficiency of safety belt and child restraint usage programs
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    Problem: Each year, approximately 34,000 persons are killed and 520,000 receive moderate to severe injuries as occupants of passenger cars, light trucks and vans. Approximately half ofthese deaths and injuries could be avoided if all such occupants wore safety belts and used child safety seats for their young children. Unfortunately, fewer than 12 percent of all drivers and even fewer passengers are observed to use their safety belts. Approximately 20 percent of children under age 5 have been observed to be in a safety restraint. Methods for Increasing Usage: The primary methods for increasing safety belt and child restraint usage are: (1) public information (mass media) programs; (2) education programs; (3)incentive programs; (4)organizational policies requiring belt use while on official business; and (5) safety belt and child restraint usage legislation. A review of such programs has suggested that combined public information, education, incentive and use requirement policy programs could substantially increase the usage rates among specific target groups, at the community level, at the State level or at the national level. However, such programs must be implemented in a comprehensive fashion (reaching many persons) over a substantial period of time. Incentive programs offer significant potential for increasing the impact of the other approaches. Unfortunately, incentive programs have been used infrequently in the past. Foreign legislation efforts have resulted in 50 percent increases in usage rates and 15 - 20 percent reductions in death and injury. Prior to such legislation, many of these nationshave achieved usage rates in the 25 - 40 percent range by means of voluntary methods, limited primarily to mass media programs. In the United States, a savings of 4,400 lives and an avoidance of 87,000 moderate to critical injuries could be achieved with only a 35 percent usage rate, well within the range achieved in some nations. Suggested Approaches: A review of past studies designed to determine the reasons for low belt usage and of possible approaches for countering such reasons suggests the following considerations to be included in any future efforts to increase safety belt and child restraint usage in the Untied States: (1) many other groups and organizations have to be involved in the program; (2) automobile deaths and injuries must be viewed as a public healthproblem; (3) current interest in child restraints should be capitalized on; (4) the economic costs of belt non-use must be better documented; (5) more emphasis on incentive programs should be encouraged; (6) comprehensive, multi-faceted programs should be implemented by "networks" of organizations; (7) many different target groups must be addressed; and (8) a program based on voluntary usage is most appropriate at the present time. Such a program is presently being developed by the NHTSA. /Abstract from report summary page/
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