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The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.

Title:

The Use of Safety Restraint Systems in Virginia by Occupants Under 16 Years of Age: The 1999 Survey Results
Authors:
Stoke, Charles B.
Cheryl W. Lynn
Year: 2000
VTRC No.: 01-TAR6
Abstract: The Virginia Transportation Research Council has been monitoring the use of child safety restraint systems in Virginia since 1983 through child safety seat surveys conducted annually (with the exception of 1995). The principal goal of the survey has been to estimate compliance with the relevant statutes in place at the time. Each year, data were collected from the four metropolitan areas of the state (northern, eastern, central, and western) at the same sites, on the same day of the week, and at the same hour of the day. In 1997, sites in three localities with a population between 50,000 and 100,000, referred to as mid-size cities, were added, as was data collection on safety belt use by occupants 4 to 16 years of age. This change was made because of changes to §§ 46.2-1094 and 46.2-1095 of the Code of Virginia, which required these rear seat occupants to use safety restraints. In 1997, the percentage of children under age 4 seated in the front seat was in the double digits in every locality studied. Since then, the percentage of front seat passengers in this age group declined into single digits in all but one locality. Between 1993 and 1998, Metropolitan area survey results were characterized by a lack of consistent change, with correct use rates hovering in the 50s and mid-60s. In 1999, correct use rose to 83.2%. Similar trends had been seen in all four metropolitan areas, with the 1999 correct use rate ranging from 78.8% in the western area to 89.0% in the eastern area. A similar increase from 57.0% in 1998 to 84.6% in 1999 was noted in the mid-size cities. Lynchburg experienced the greatest increase, from 36.8% to 91.9%, with the rate in Charlottesville increasing to 88.5% and in Danville to 70.6%. In all three mid-size cities, incorrect use rates dropped to below 10%. In terms of restraint use among occupants 4 to 16 years of age, the picture is more complicated and not so positive. In the metropolitan areas, there was a modest increase in 1999 in correct restraint use (4.5 points), but nothing like the dramatic changes seen in the younger group of children. Front seat correct use rose to 61.8% in 1999, compared to the rear seat correct use of 49%. Correct restraint use among occupants 4 to 16 years of age also increased in midsize cities, but by about 10 points. These increases were not consistent across metropolitan areas or mid-size cities.