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Factors related to nonuse of seat belts in Michigan. Final report

UMTRI-87-36


Authors: Alexander C. Wagenaar, R. H. Schultz, Karen L. Businski, Lisa J. Molnar, Frederick M. Streff

This study combined direct observation of seat belt use with interview methods to identify factors related to seat belt use in a state with a mandatory seat belt use law. Trained observers recorded restraint use for a probability sample of motorists traveling on roads throughout the State of Michigan. Roadside interviews of 1,864 drivers measured sociodemographic, situational, attitudinal, normative, and behavioral characteristics related to seat belt use.

Selected sociodemographic characteristics which are not susceptible to change, as well as crash experience and safety attitudes that are difficult to modify, were related to belt use. Few factors examined had an effect comparable to the known effects of compulsory belt use. Specifically, we examined actual belt use across a variety of social situations, and only found small differences. Results also indicated that seat belt use was lower than average among: (1) males, (2) individuals with lower socioeconomic status, (3) those of minority ethnic backgrounds, (4) those below age 30, (5) alcoholic beverage drinkers who drink to intoxication or while driving, (6) drivers in urban environments, and (7) married individuals below age 25. Our findings suggest several potentially effective seat belt use programs which focus on creating a stronger norm for belt use. These programs include use of prompts in locations characterized by low belt use, efforts to increase knowledge of crash involvement and seat belt efficacy, and programs to establish normative pressure to use belts. Finally, results indicate that the effectiveness of compulsory belt use will likely be increased by stricter enforcement efforts that are well publicized.