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Sensible Way to Increase Public Seat Belt Usage

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 37 Issue: 6 Dated: (June 1989) Pages: 58,61-63
T G Moore; R E Stearns
Date Published
4 pages
The Texas mandatory seat belt law, effective as of September 1985, was enacted as a primary violation with a minimum fine of $25 and a maximum fine of $50.
There was a 3-month grace period following the law's enactment to allow the public to become familiar with the law and develop the habit of using seat belts. During this time, media focus on the seat belt law was intensive, and seat belt usage rates increased significantly throughout the State. As media attention later declined, however, citizen compliance with the law also declined. Police administrators continually urged primary enforcement, but most police officers admitted they preferred to give verbal warnings or cite seat belt violators only in conjunction with other hazardous violations. In Arlington, a two-pronged program was devised to reverse this trend. The primary goal is to reduce traffic deaths by targeting high-risk drivers (those not wearing seat belts) for special attention via concentrated law enforcement and education. A key program feature involves encouraging high-risk drivers to attend a seat belt education class through the municipal court system in lieu of paying a fine. Violators are allowed to exercise this option only once, and about half of those cited for not wearing seat belts have opted to take the class. The concentrated law enforcement and education program has increased the use of seat belt and child restraint systems by Arlington's driving public.