Motor Vehicle Occupant Fatalities in Four States with Seat Belt Use Laws 870224

Seat belt use laws in New York, Michigan, New Jersey, and Illinois reduced front seat occupant fatalities by an estimated 16, 10, 6 and five percent respectively, during the months in 1985 they were in effect. Only the reduction for New York was statistically significant, but the similarity between the pattern of fatality reductions and the pattern of increases in seat belt use lends credibility to the estimates. Each reduction was less than expected given the known effectiveness of seat belts and the observed rates of use in noncrash populations, suggesting again that seat belt use laws are less successful in increasing belt use among those who are more likely to be in crashes. Pedestrian fatalities were unaffected by the laws, indicating that “risk compensation” was not a factor modifying the success of the laws.


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