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