Primary enforcement laws more effective in increasing safety belt use: study

April 22, 2010

Primary enforcement laws are more effective than secondary enforcement laws in getting people to wear safety belts, concludes a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As part of the study, CDC researchers used state and territory data from the 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to calculate safety belt use. Findings showed that in 2006, safety belt use was 86 percent in states and territories with primary enforcement laws and 75.9 percent in states with secondary enforcement laws.

Researchers said primary enforcement laws are effective in increasing overall levels of safety belt use as well as reducing disparities in safety belt use, which may reduce disparities in occupant injuries and fatalities.

Primary laws allow law enforcement officers to pull over a vehicle if they observe an unbelted driver or front-seat passenger. Secondary laws allow officers to ticket for violations only after stopping the motorist for another offense.

The study appeared in the Journal of Safety Research (Vol. 40, No. 6), which is published by the National Safety Council.