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Determining the relationship of primary seat belt laws to minority ticketing : traffic tech.
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  • Abstract:
    When a State converts from secondary to primary seat belt

    enforcement, studies show increases of 10 percentage points or

    more in observed seat belt use. Primary enforcement laws allow

    an officer to ticket a motorist whenever they observe a seat belt

    offender. Under secondary enforcement, an officer must stop

    the vehicle for some other infraction first. While approval ratings

    of primary laws are high, issues of minority harassment,

    differential enforcement, racial profiling, or “driving while

    Black” still arise in discussions when States convert seat belt

    laws to primary enforcement status. A number of studies suggest

    that minorities perceive stricter law enforcement than Caucasians

    overall and were more likely to believe that they would

    be ticketed if unbelted. These studies showed no systematic differential

    enforcement in actual ticketing.

    Differential enforcement is clearly undesirable. One element

    that makes seat belt laws effective is the heightened perception

    that they are being strictly enforced. Primary laws motivate

    people to obey laws and convey the message that a State considers

    seat belts important to the safety of its citizens. NHTSA

    conducted a study to investigate changes before and after States

    switched to primary enforcement. Thirteen States upgraded

    seat belt laws to primary enforcement between 2000 and 2009.

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