Evaluation of a High-Visibility Seat Belt Enforcement Program on the Blue Ridge Parkway
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Evaluation of a High-Visibility Seat Belt Enforcement Program on the Blue Ridge Parkway

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      The National Park Service (NPS) conducted a high-visibility enforcement (HVE) seat belt program on a 24-mile section of the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) known as the Roanoke Corridor, that carries both park and commuter traffic. Seat belts are required by all motor vehicle occupants on Federal property, including national parks, such as the BRP. Many of the Roanoke Corridor commuters are in a unique situation as they travel through secondary and primary seat belt enforcement jursidictions on a daily basis, creating an opportunity to reach drivers while in a primary enforcement jurisdiction. For this HVE program, the NPS used low-cost media and stepped-up seat belt enforcement to encourage seat belt use on the BRP. Two program periods were evaluated (i.e., May 17 to 28 (coinciding with national Click It or Ticket) and October 18 to 29, 2010). The awareness survey conducted by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles in Roanoke indicated that Roanoke respondents were aware of the program enforcement activity, but did not show a significant increase in awareness of the seat belt laws in Virginia and on the BRP. While seat belt observations showed a significant increase in belt use on the BRP, no change was found in Roanoke. Possibly contributing to this result, only a small proportion of Roanoke respondents reported frequent BRP use, possibly limiting exposure to the program activity. Observed seat belt use on the BRP significantly increased from 82.5 to 91.8 and 82.5 to 90.1 percent for the May and October efforts, respectively. Observed belt use increased for drivers, passengers, males, females, and for all vehicle types from baseline to the end of the second wave. Generally, the groups with the lowest belt use before the program gained the most over the course of the two waves. There were no changes observed in the comparison area, Charlottesville, either in awareness or in observed seat belt use. Data limitations include minimal seat belt observation data, infrequent BRP use among Roanoke respondents, and low baselines. Nevertheless, the data show the NPS implemented a successful HVE program, marked by strong partnerships among participating enforcement and significant pre-to-post increases in observed seat belt use on the BRP.
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