Evaluation of the First Year of the Washington Nighttime Seat Belt Enforcement Program
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Evaluation of the First Year of the Washington Nighttime Seat Belt Enforcement Program

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    Interim report; Aug. 25, 2006-May 31, 2008.
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    The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) received funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to conduct a high-visibility nighttime seat belt enforcement (NTSBE) program in Washington State. The two-year program is following the basic Click It or Ticket (CIOT) model by using highly visible enforcement combined with increased paid and earned media about the enforcement but is applying its efforts during the nighttime rather than the daytime hours. The activities of the first program year covered spring and fall campaigns in 2007 and a spring campaign in 2008. The first year evaluation reported here examined awareness of the campaign with a survey in driver license offices, observed seat belt use both day and night at 40 selected sites in five counties around the State, and the statewide annual observational surveys for 2007 and 2008. The awareness surveys showed that the program was effective in getting out its message through multiple media. The observations at the 40 sites showed a statistically significant increase in night belt use. Night belt use began at 94.6% before the NTSBE, peaked at 96.6% in September 2007, and finished at 95.7% in June 2008. The 2008 statewide daytime survey showed a small increase in belt use from 96.4% to 96.5%. Thus, there is no indication that focusing all CIOT efforts during the nighttime hours caused a decline in daytime seat belt use. The study also observed belted and unbelted drivers at four 24hour gas stations around the State. Based on the information from these observations, the WTSC obtained driver abstract and criminal record histories for 1,715 drivers observed before the start of the program. In addition, records were accessed for 5,035 drivers who were cited, mostly for seat belt violations, by the patrols funded by NTSBE. Analyses of these records showed that the night unbelted driver had consistently more traffic violations and criminal arrests than belted drivers at night and either belted or unbelted drivers during the day. Crash involvements showed the same pattern as violations and criminal arrests but did not reach statistical significance. Based on the first year’s activities, the NTSBE program appears to be meeting its goals and developing useful operational and research information that can assist future nighttime seat belt enforcement efforts.
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