Traffic Tech #224: 1998 Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey Shows Consistent Gains Across America
Number 224 May 2000
U.S. Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590
1998 MOTOR VEHICLE OCCUPANT SAFETY SURVEY SHOWS CONSISTENT GAINS ACROSS AMERICA
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducts a national telephone survey every two years to monitor the public's attitudes about seat belts, child safety seats, reasons for their use or non-use, knowledge of seat belt laws, experience with law enforcement, and attitudes about risk perception. The 1998 survey consisted of two questionnaires, each given to a randomly selected sample of about 4,000 persons age 16 and older (with younger ages oversampled) for a total of about 8,000. Interviewing ran from November 5, 1998 through January 12, 1999.
Seat Belt Use
- About four-fifths (79%) of drivers said they used their seat belt all the time. Among those whose belt systems did not have an automatic component, all the time belt use was lowest among those with lap systems only (61%) and highest for those with one-piece lap and shoulder systems (80%). For two-piece belt systems, drivers were much more likely to use their lap belt all the time if the shoulder belt was manual (88%) rather than automatic (62%).
- All the time usage was lower for males (74%), persons in low income households (74%), pickup truck drivers (65%), and persons in the heaviest weight quartile (67% for males, 77% for females). Proportionally, fewer blacks (75%) than whites (79%), but more Hispanics (85%) than non-Hispanics (79%), reported all the time usage.
- Ten percent of drivers who said they wore their belt all of the time also said they had not worn their seat belt while driving in the past day or week. More than 70% of most of the time users made the same admission. A revised self-report belt use measure, which subtracted drivers who said they had not worn their seat belt recently from the all the time user group, almost matched exactly the seat belt use rates obtained in a NHTSA national observation survey conducted at about the same time as the telephone survey.
- One-third of drivers (34%) said they at least sometimes drive as part of a job or business, either almost every day (56%) or a few days a week (26%). Less than half (48%) of these drivers said that their company had a policy requiring seat belt use while driving on the job, a decline from 53% in 1996. Drivers' reported seat belt use tended to be higher if they thought their company had a seat belt policy.
Reasons for Use and Non-use of Seat Belts
- The more years of formal schooling, the more likely people were to say they used seat belts primarily to avoid injuries.
- Persons who had not gone to college were more likely than those with less years of formal schooling to say that their main reason for using belts was that it was the law.
- When asked which reason for their non-use of seat belts was most important, forgetting was ranked first (24%), and short distance ranked second (22%).
- Few drivers said they never wore their seat belt. Non-users' reasons differed from part-time users as they listed discomfort more often. Part time users more often gave reasons related to risk perception (for example, they were only going a short distance).
Attitudes about Seat Belts, Risk Perception and Fatalism
- The vast majority of the public either strongly (86%) or somewhat (8%) agreed with the statement "If I were in an accident, I would want to have my seat belt on." As reported belt use increased, so did agreement with the statement.
- More than one-third of the public (38%) either strongly (15%) or somewhat (23%) agreed with the statement "Seat belts are just as likely to harm you as help you." As reported belt use increased, agreement with this statement decreased.
- Among persons ages 16-24, 63% either strongly (46%) or somewhat (17%) agreed that "I have a habit of wearing a seat belt because my parents insisted I wear them when I was a child." The number dropped to 36% for those ages 25-34, and 23% for those ages 35-44.
- The fatalistic belief that wearing seat belts did not matter because "if it is your time to die, you'll die" was more prevalent among drivers who reported lower levels of seat belt usage; 22% among all the time users, 35% among most of the time users, 52% among some of the time users, and 61% among those who rarely or never wore seat belts. Blacks (40%) and Hispanics (31%) were more likely to agree with this statement than were whites (25%) and non-Hispanics (27%).
Trends Over Time
- Reported seat belt use among drivers increased from 74% in 1994 to 76% in 1996 to 79% in 1998.
- Support for standard enforcement provisions for seat belt laws increased from 52% of the total population in 1996 to 58% in 1998.
HOW TO ORDER
For a copy of 1998 Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey Volume 2 Seat Belt Report, (192 pages) prepared by Alan Block of NHTSA, data collected by Schulman, Ronca & Bucuvales, Inc. write to the Office of Research and Traffic Records, NHTSA, NTS-31, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590 or send a fax to (202) 366-7096.Volume 2, Methodology Report is also available. Download from www.nhtsa.dot.gov
400 Seventh Street, S.W. NTS-31
Washington, DC 20590
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