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Traffic Inj Prev. 2005 Jun;6(2):120-6.

Requiring belt use as part of a school parking permit program: does it increase students' belt use?

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Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Arlington, Virginia, USA.



Teenagers have very high motor vehicle crash rates, and their use of seat belts is generally lower than that of adults. A potential school-based strategy to increase teenagers' belt use is a policy making parking privileges contingent on belt use by student drivers and their passengers. This study evaluated the effects of implementing a school belt policy.


The effects of a belt policy were evaluated during the 2003-2004 school year at high schools in two states: Connecticut, a state with a primary enforcement belt law and high belt use rates, and Mississippi, a state with a secondary enforcement law and generally low use rates. Both schools enforced the policy, and violations resulted in a graduated set of penalties leading to the potential loss of parking privileges. Baseline and post-policy belt use rates were obtained from observation surveys of student drivers and their teenage passengers coming to and from school. Changes in belt use were examined relative to belt use trends at comparison schools without a belt policy. Implementation of the policies also was monitored.


In Mississippi, among students arriving at school in the morning, driver belt use increased from 42% before the policy to 67% about 6 months after; passenger belt use increased from 16% to 61%, although sample sizes were small. These increases were significantly larger than expected, based on belt use trends at the comparison school in Mississippi. In Connecticut, where 86% of drivers and 79% of their passengers already were belted prior to the policy, there was no significant change. Both schools publicized and monitored the belt policy, and most enforcement occurred in the morning as students arrived at school.


Based on a small-scale application of a belt policy at two schools in different states, a school belt policy may have stronger effects in states where belt use is low. Strong penalties and enforcement are essential elements of an effective policy. Adequate resources and commitment are needed for schools to implement and monitor the type of strong policy needed to sustain high belt use rates. Replication of this study in additional schools appears warranted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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