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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Metrics for Local Community Planning and Evaluation: The Case for Observational Measurement of High Risk Rural Sub-Populations in Occupant Safety


Introduction: The purpose of this study is to examine the relevance of non-specific safety belt use data for interventions to rural teens and to pilot a data collection project to provide more specific data to traffic safety stakeholders and educators in rural areas.Methods: Twelve high schools in Southeast Georgia were used for observed safety belt data collection over a 16 month period. Observational surveys were conducted at the entrance to student parking lots of the studied schools in the morning or afternoon. Observers were trained and survey methods were standardized to maintain comparability between results.Results: Observational surveys revealed a safety belt usage rate of 38.6% among high schools teens at the studied high schools. Safety belt usage rates ranged from 9.5% to 66.9%. Observed safety belt use for female vehicle occupants was 48.4% compared to 35.6% for males.Conclusion: The observational survey results from this study support research showing that rural teens have lower safety belt usage rates than adults or urban teens. Despite efforts to target rural areas, programs must specifically target sub populations, especially rural male teens, in order to hold any traction. Because of the wide gap between measured safety belt use in rural Georgia (79.9%) and the studied rural high schools (38.6%), local program planners must assess actual safety belt usage in their high risk rural teen population in order to use accurate metrics for intervention and education efforts. [West J Emerg Med. 2013;14(4):380–383.]

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