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Study shows support for rural seat belt laws

Friday, March 20, 2009 - 00:00

A new study reported in the National Safety Council's Journal of Safety Research finds extensive citizen support for a primary seat belt law in a rural state.

The study, led by Bobbi Jo Perkins, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, surveyed Montana residents and found that 61 percent of respondents would be in favor of a primary seat belt law. Those more likely to support a law include women, older persons, Native Americans, adults with health insurance and those who always wear a seat belt.

The new report comes at a time when many state legislatures, including Montana, are debating adoption of primary seat belt laws ahead of this year's expiration of the federal incentive for primary laws. Currently, 25 states and the District of Columbia (with Arkansas the 26th, effective June 30) have primary seat belt laws.

"This report is the latest evidence that a majority of Americans, including those in a rural state, support primary seat belt laws," says Janet Froetscher, President & CEO of the NSC.
The facts are clear, she added. Primary seat belt laws save lives.

"States that enact primary seat belt laws see higher increases in seat belt use, which translates into more people surviving crashes they otherwise would not have survived. Legislators who support primary seat belt laws are saving lives among their constituents and do so with public support," Froetscher says.

This latest report is consistent with public opinion research the NSC conducted between 1996 and 2005 as part of its Air Bag and Seat Belt Campaign. Those studies consistently found that more than 60 percent of the public supported primary seat belt laws.

The latest study involved a telephone survey of 3,103 Montana residents. The authors believe that "state agencies and other health organizations can utilize information regarding constituent support for primary seat belt laws to educate and advocate for this critical public health issue."

To access the study, visit Elsevier's Science Direct at www.sciencedirect.com and enter the title Journal of Safety Research, Volume 40, Number 1.

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