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ASPPH/NHTSA Fellows Publish Study on Seat Belt Use

Ms. Nandi Taylor, a graduate of the University of Kansas Medical Center Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, and Ms. Melissa Daily, a graduate of University of Michigan School of Public Health, are both second-year ASPPH/National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Public Health Fellows at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Ms. Taylor currently works in NHTSA’s Office of Behavioral Safety Research where she focuses on research related to distracted driving, occupation protection and young drivers. Ms. Daily works in NHTSA’s Occupant Protection Division where she focuses on topics related to seat belt use, child passenger safety, distracted driving, among other traffic safety topics. During their first year as public health fellows, they recognized a reoccurring topic of conversation among traffic safety professionals and colleagues. Seat belt use among Americans has increased significantly over the past several decades however, seat belt use among rear seat passengers remains much lower than front seat occupants. Riding unrestrained in the rear seat can lead to serious injury or death however, adults continue to ride unrestrained in the back seat. After hearing about this discrepancy, they decided to analyze data collected from one of NHTSA’s recent nationally representative surveys to further understand the issue.

The purpose of their study was to identify factors that predict self-reported rear seat belt use among adult back seat passengers. They examined data from the 2016 Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey (MVOSS), conducted by NHTSA, to determine the influence of front seat belt use, support of and belief of rear seat belt laws, nighttime belt use, peer perception of seat belt use, and demographic factors on self-reported rear seat belt use.

The research showed that seat belt use among back seat passengers remains substantially lower than front seat belt use. Age, education, front seat belt use, support of rear seat belt laws, belief in the existence of rear seat belt laws, and nighttime seat belt use were significantly associated with rear belt use. Front seat belt use, support of rear seat belt laws and belief in the existence of rear seat belt laws were the strongest predictors for reporting rear seat belt use.

The fellows hope that these conclusions will lead to future research on this topic and will be used to design interventions that specifically address back seat passengers and ultimately increase belt use in all seating positions at all times. With the widespread use of ride share vehicles, there is a growing need to address rear seat belt use.

Read more about their research in their recently published article in the Journal of Safety research entitled “Self-reported factors that influence rear seat belt use among adults.”