States upgrade to primary enforcement seat belt laws : traffic tech.

States upgrade to primary enforcement seat belt laws : traffic tech.

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    States with primary seat belt enforcement laws consistently have higher observed daytime seat belt use rates than secondary law States. Secondary belt law States, on the other hand, consistently have more motor vehicle fatalities who were not restrained than do primary law States. Primary laws are associated with a 10 to 12% increase in observed belt rates and 9- to 10-percentage-point increases among occupants killed in fatal motor vehicle crashes. Observed seat belt use averages 88.2% in States with primary belt enforcement laws and 79.1% in States with secondary enforcement (NHTSA, 2009). Since the year 2000, 14 States upgraded their seat belt laws to primary enforcement status. This study documents the roles, strategies, resources, and arguments States used in their actions to pass primary belt laws. The 10 States that upgraded their seat belt laws between 2004 and 2009 (Tennessee, South Carolina, Alaska, Mississippi, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Arkansas, Florida, and Wisconsin) provided in-depth information about the successes and challenges they encountered during the process. It includes a literature review of the legislative history of primary belt laws. Researchers conducted more than 80 in-depth interviews with a variety of people who played key roles in the process of upgrading to primary enforcement. Each of the 10 case study States was unique in terms of the approach they used to pass a primary belt law, but there were common efforts and themes among them. Advocates pointed out that it is important to understand that passing a primary law is a multiyear effort involving a broad network of organizations and individuals. They need to identify and effectively respond to opposition arguments specific to their State. One persuasive element in many of the States was to make legislators aware of the availability of Section 406 Safety Belt Performance Grants, a portion of which could be used for highway and infrastructure projects. Advocates often hired lobbyists to provide information to address concerns of legislators. They also engaged the media to present a balanced view of the issues and report public support. Presenting the bill as a public health issue to save lives, reduce injuries, and reduce State medical expenditures attracted diverse partners and broadened the debate.
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