Patterns of safety belt use among drivers killed in fatal crashes in Virginia.
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Patterns of safety belt use among drivers killed in fatal crashes in Virginia.

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      Safety belt usage or non-usage was noted for drivers fatally injured in motor vehicle accidents in Virginia during fiscal year 1974. Data were obtained from FR300 accident report forms and available corresponding medical examiner's reports, and only those drivers in whose motor vehicles safety belts had been installed and whose deaths could be directly attributed to the motor vehicle accident were included in the study. Of the 274 fatalities that were included, 34 (12.4%) were designated as users of safety belts at the time of the accident, and the remaining 240 (87.6%) were classified as nonusers. Although a somewhat greater percentage of Virginia drivers who were users of safety belts were represented among those fatally injured :during FY 1974 (12.4%) than during FY 1973 (8.2%), the difference was not statistically significant. When accident related and demographic variables were examined, significant difference s between users and nonusers were found for such variables as driver's sex, vehicle age, time of day, day of the week, road condition, driver actions, and whether the driver had been drinking. It was found for example, that a greater proportion of males not using safety belts were killed than males using safety belts, and that a greater percentage of nonusers were violating a traffic law at the time of the accident. It was also found that more nonusers than users were drinking at the time of the accident. It was hypothesized that the proportion of safety belt users among fatalities would be the same as that among the general driving population, however, this was not found to be the case. When the safety belt usage rate among fatally injured drivers (12.4%) was compared to the usage rate among the general driving population of Virginia (24.0%) and to estimates of usage rates for drivers in two other states, statistically significant (p < .001) differences were found.. When drivers killed in fatal collisions were compared to drivers involved in but not killed in fatal collisions, the safety belt usage rate was found to be significantly lower among the fatally injured drivers. Thus, it was concluded that safety belt users were underrepresented among Virginia fatalities, and that safety belt utilization was one of the safeguards against fatal injuries among Virginia drivers during fiscal year 1974.
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