Primary Enforcement Leads to Higher Teen Seat Belt Use

Teen drivers 12 percent less likely to buckle up in states with secondary enforcement laws

WEDNESDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) -- Teen drivers and passengers in states with secondary safety belt enforcement laws are less likely to wear seat belts compared with teens in states with primary enforcement, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

J. Felipe García-España, Ph.D., from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and colleagues analyzed data from a national representative sample of 3,126 high school drivers who participated in the 2006 National Young Driver Survey. Safety belt use for drivers and passengers was compared among novice teen learners, provisional, and unrestricted drivers in states with primary versus secondary enforcement provisions of safety belt laws.

The researchers found that, in states with a secondary safety belt law, teen drivers were 12 percent less likely to wear a safety belt when driving and 15 percent less likely to wear it as passengers, compared to teenagers in states with a primary law. In states with secondary enforcement, but not states with primary enforcement laws, there was an apparent reduction in belt use as teenagers progressed from learner to unrestricted license holder. African-Americans, rural residents, academically challenged students, and those driving pick-up trucks reported particularly low belt use.

"This study provides further evidence in support of safety belt laws with primary enforcement as a potential strategy for increasing both driver and passenger safety belt use among teens throughout the licensing process," the authors write. "The reduction in safety belt use observed as teens progress through the licensing process appears to be mitigated in primary enforcement states."

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