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Title:Seat Belt Use on North Dakota Rural Roads: 2009
Authors:Kimberly Vachal, Donald Malchose, Mark Lofgren, Andrea Huseth, and Laurel Benson
Publication Date:Sep 2009
Report #:DP-216
TRID #:01142621
Keywords:crash injuries, field studies, gender, pickup trucks, rural highways, seat belts, traffic law enforcement
Type:Research Report – Department Publications



North Dakota's rural roads are vital social and economic connectors. These roads, however, are associated with relatively high crash injury risk. While a multitude of efforts is underway to reduce crash risk through road improvements and vehicle technology, seat belts offer an immediate and low-cost protection that can reduce occupant crash injury risk by half. To increase knowledge about seat belt use on these roads, a pilot observation study was conducted around the time of the state's annual seat belt campaign. Observations showed a 44.8% rural roads use rate. Because of the higher relative risk and disparate use rates, it may be more informative to consider the use rates by road environment. Statewide rural seat belt use rates of 55.2% and 35.6% were estimated on highways and in towns, respectively, based on 6,919 driver observations. Results showed higher use among female drivers than male, and that the lowest use rate was among male pickup truck drivers. Evidence from post and ex ante surveys showed promise for increasing seat belt use on rural roads by involving local sheriff and police departments in high visibility enforcement. This pilot project creates a building point for increasing knowledge and strengthening programs through empirical analysis of rural seat belt use rates. The value of this pilot will be determined by future work that reduces crash injury and death by knowledge gained in extending and expanding the empirical analysis initiated by this endeavor.

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