Increasing Seat Belt Use Amongst Rural Populations
This 12-month demonstration project was focused on increasing seat belt use in rural areas. The project relied on a multifaceted approach consisting of sustained publicity and police enforcement. A technical assistance guide was used to motivate and assist law enforcement agencies/officers to engage with rural community members on the usefulness of wearing seat belts. The program effort consisted of 1) contact with seat belt violators and 2) sustained messaging to keep the local population informed that seat belt use is important for the health and well-being of the community. Set to begin in Spring 2020, outreach and enforcement efforts were immediately hindered due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic resulted in staffing shortages and reduced opportunity for face-to-face interactions and community partnerships. Severe storms and flooding (in Louisiana) created additional hurdles. Still, participating
agencies conducted (non-scientific) seat belt observations and collected citation and outreach data. Program data showed that law enforcement officers approached non-compliant motorists and law enforcement agencies participated in seat belt messaging, at least monthly. Pre- and post- waves of (scientific) roadside seat belt observations in program and control areas assessed the program’s impact on seat belt use. Results were mixed, in terms of belt use, with only Rapides Parish showing some encouraging results. During debriefing, local agency representatives were confident that the program would be successful if carried out in more normal circumstances.
Read the full study here.