The 2003 Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey was the fifth in a series of biennial national telephone surveys on occupant protection issues conducted for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Data collection was conducted by Schulman, Ronca & Bucuvalas, Inc., a national survey research organization. The survey used two questionnaires, each administered to a randomly selected national sample of about 6,000 persons age 16 or older. Interviewing began January 8, 2003 and ended March 30, 2003. A total of 12,000 telephone interviews were completed with national samples of persons aged 16 and older.
Safety Belt Report
The passenger car remains the most common primary vehicle driven by adults (59%), although the percentage has continued to drop as SUVs (13%) have increased in frequency. The predominant type of safety belt in the front seat of vehicles is the one-piece manual lap and shoulder system (80%). Drivers increasingly are reporting that they have adjustable shoulder belts (52%). Eighty-four percent of drivers said they wore their safety belt "all of the time" while driving, but 7% of those immediately said that they did not use a safety belt while driving at least once in the past day or week. Reported belt use traditionally is higher than observed belt use, although the demographic patterns tend to be the same. Reported safety belt use was lower among males, drivers age 16-24, drivers in rural areas, pickup truck drivers, drivers who engage in other risky driving behaviors, and drivers in secondary enforcement States. Drivers most often cited injury avoidance as their most important reason for using safety belts (66%). Part-time belt users substantially outnumbered those who reported never wearing safety belts, and their primary reasons for non-use were driving just a short distance and forgetting. Eighty-eight percent of the public favored laws that require drivers and front seat passengers to wear safety belts, 64% favored standard enforcement and 65% favored fines for drivers who do not wear safety belts.
Child Safety Seat Report
Among drivers who lived with children age 12 or younger, most indicated that the youngest child typically rode in the back seat. Parents/caregivers of children under the age of 9 usually said the (referent) child either used a child car seat all the time (60%) or never (32%). If the child never used a car seat, it usually was because the child had graduated to safety belt use. However, 29% of the children who never used a car seat but wore safety belts said the shoulder belt cut across their face or neck on most trips, 25% usually put the shoulder belt behind their back, and 17% put the shoulder belt under their arm. Most children ages 5 through 8 discontinued using child car seats (including booster seats). Although booster seats are recommended for most children ages 4 through 8, the survey found only 21% of children in that age range using them and another 19% using front-facing child safety seats. While most parents/caregivers (85%) had heard of booster seats, 22% of these had concerns about their safety.
Conducted for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Office of Research and Traffic Records
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