Seat Belt Wearing Rates in Victoria: 1994

Monash University Accident Research Centre - Report #89 - 1996

Authors: K. Diamantopoulou, D. Dyte & M. Cameron

Full report in .pdf format [4.4MB]

Abstract:

A survey of occupant exposure to risk on Victorian roads was conducted by Arup Transportation Planning for VicRoads during 1994. Data collected during the survey was used to estimate seat belt wearing rates for various road user groups on Melbourne arterial roads, in Victorian rural towns and on selected Victorian rural highways during that year. Comparisons were made with seat belt wearing rates measured in surveys covering the same three environments carried out at various times during 1989-1991.

Subject to the accuracy of the survey data provided, the analysis has shown increases in the wearing of seat belts by both drivers and passengers since 1989-91 for all three locations. However, there are still some vehicle occupant sub-groups, particularly rear seat passengers and children occupying the front seat of a vehicle, that had relatively low restraint use in 1994.

Although seat belt wearing rates were generally high in Victoria, it was recommended that in addition to targeting vehicle occupant groups with low seat belt wearing rates, those with high occupancy frequencies should also be targeted, since a smaller percentage increase in restraint wearing for high occupancy groups could have a much larger effect.

Executive Summary

A survey of occupant exposure to risk on Victorian roads was conducted by Arup Transportation Planning for VicRoads during 1994. Data collected during the survey was used to estimate seat belt wearing rates for various road user groups on Melbourne arterial roads, in Victorian rural towns and on selected Victorian rural highways during that year. Comparisons were made with seat belt wearing rates measured in surveys covering the same three environments carried out at various times during 1989-1991. Because the analysis made use of data prepared by others, the accuracy of the resultant wearing rates depends on the validity and reliability of the surveys. The results should, therefore, be interpreted with care.

Seat belt wearing in Melbourne

During 1994 seat belt wearing rates were high for male and female drivers of all ages. The lowest rates (approximately 95%) occurred for female drivers aged 22-25 and male drivers aged 26-29. Further, for both drivers and passengers there have been increases in the wearing of seat belts since 1990. However, there are still some vehicle occupant sub-groups, particularly rear seat passengers, that had relatively low restraint use in 1994.

Fewer rear seat passengers wore seat belts than other vehicle occupants, particularly those seated in the left rear position of a vehicle. Female rear seat passengers had lower restraint wearing rates than males, although the opposite was found for drivers and front seat passengers.

Amongst rear seat passengers, children aged 14-17 were a problem group with only 73% wearing seat belts. Of these, it appeared that males were less likely to wear a restraint than females, having a 61.5% wearing rate. Other rear seat passengers with low wearing rates were those aged 26-39, especially females - only 70% of females aged 26-39 wore a seat belt. For the same age group of rear seat passengers, only 69% wore a seat belt during the day.

Younger adults travelling in a vehicle driven by a probationary driver also had low restraint use. Approximately 78% of those aged 18-25 and 81% of those aged 26-39 wore a seat belt. Amongst older passengers aged 60 and over, females occupying the rear seat of a vehicle had the lowest restraint wearing rate of 84%.

Generally, rear seat passengers had lower wearing rates at night than during the day, particularly females. Further, children aged 0-3 and 14-17 seated in the rear seat had low restraint wearing rates at night of approximately 75%, as did children aged 14-17 occupying the rear seat during the day (a rate of 72%).

Amongst front seat passengers, 72% of those seated in the centre front position wore a restraint. Young children, aged 4-7, seated in the front seat were less likely to wear a seat belt than older children or adults, particularly male children of which 71% wore a restraint.

Seat belt wearing in Victorian rural towns

Since 1989, there have been increases in seat belt wearing for drivers and passengers in Victorian rural towns. Drivers and front seat passengers had higher restraint wearing rates (over 97%) than rear seat passengers (94%) in 1994. Further, for most vehicle occupant sub-groups, the wearing rates in Victorian rural towns during 1994 were higher than those on Melbourne arterial roads. However, there are still some occupancy groups, particularly rear seat passengers, that had relatively low seat belt wearing rates in rural towns.

Although drivers in general had high seat belt wearing rates, young adults aged 22-25 driving at night had a relatively lower rate; approximately 86% of young adults wore seat belts at night whilst driving in rural towns.

Male rear seat passengers also appear to be a problem group with respect to seat belt usage. Children aged 14-17 occupying the rear seat of a vehicle had a wearing rate of 87%, but only 60% of male children in this age group wore a restraint. Rear seat male passengers aged 26-39 also had a relatively low wearing rate of 81%, as did children aged 14-17 travelling at night; only 80% wore a restraint when occupying the rear seat of a vehicle. Another problem group were rear seat male passengers aged 26-39, with 81% wearing a seat belt.

Children aged 4-7 had the lowest seat belt wearing rates amongst front seat passengers, particularly females, with only 86% wearing a restraint. Further, approximately 80% of children aged 8-13 wore a restraint when occupying the rear seat of a vehicle driven by a probationary driver. Passengers of other ages had higher wearing rates when travelling with a probationary licence holder.

For older passengers, aged 60 and over, 85% of females occupying the rear seat of a vehicle wore a restraint, whilst males and females travelling during the day had a seat belt wearing rate of 88.5%.

Seat belt wearing on Victorian rural highways

As was observed in the Melbourne and rural town samples, drivers and front seat passengers travelling on rural highways in 1994 generally had higher restraint wearing rates than rear seat passengers. Over 98% of all drivers wore seat belts, with the lowest wearing rate amongst drivers occurring for inexperienced male drivers - those with a probationary licence had a wearing rate of 92%.

For most vehicle occupant sub-groups the wearing rates on Victorian rural highways were lower than the corresponding rates found in rural towns. The seat belt wearing rates have also increased since the previous study for open road travel conducted in 1990-91. However, amongst front and rear seat passengers some problem groups still exist.

Rear seat passengers occupying the centre position had the lowest wearing rate of 88.5% amongst rear seating positions. In addition, as had occurred in Victorian rural towns, males occupying the rear seat of a vehicle had lower rates than females on rural highways. In particular, only 73% of males aged 26-39 wore a restraint when occupying the rear seat of a vehicle, compared with a rate of 84% for all rear seat passengers aged 26-39. This age group also had a particularly low wearing rate at night, with only 66% of rear seat passengers aged 26-39 wearing a restraint. Another group with a low wearing rate at night was young adults aged 18-25 occupying the rear seat of a vehicle (84%).

Front seat passengers had relatively high restraint wearing rates except for those seated in the centre front position; this group had a wearing rate of 85%. Children were also less likely to wear a restraint in the front seat than adults. Amongst front seat passengers, 81% of children wore a restraint; this wearing rate was even lower during the night hours at 67.5%. Further, approximately 58% of children aged 4-7 occupying the front seat of a vehicle wore a restraint at night, with female children of the same age also having a relatively low seat belt wearing rate of 83%.

Recommendations

  1. Although seat belt wearing rates are generally high in Victoria, further gains could be made by targeting certain age groups, seating positions and times. In addition to targeting vehicle occupant groups with low seat belt wearing rates, those with high occupancy frequencies should also be targeted, since a smaller percentage increase in restraint wearing for high occupancy groups could have a much larger effect.
  2. As an extension of this project, confidence limits for each seat belt wearing rate could be developed, to ascertain if the low wearing rates for certain vehicle occupant groups are significantly different from other groups or are a result of a chance occurrence.
  3. An evaluation of the TACs seat belt publicity and Police enforcement campaigns during 1992-1993 could be carried out, based principally on the surveys of seat belt wearing rates conducted at various times during 1989-1991 on Melbourne arterial roads, in Victorian rural towns and on Victorian rural highways, compared with the survey described here conducted in those same three environments during 1994. In addition, the study could monitor changes in seat belt wearing rates in casualty crashes by month during 1989-1994 using Police accident reports, as a means of interpolating between the survey results.

Sponsoring Organisation: Baseline Research Program - Department of Justice, Transport Accident Commission, Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) Ltd, VicRoads