Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Transportation Safety Training Center

Model Safety Belt Enforcement Guidelines

Guidelines

The following guidelines have been provided by The International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Purpose

These guidelines are designed to assist you in achieving uniform enforcement of the Safety Belt Law in your jurisdiction. It is hoped that uniform enforcement of this law will result in voluntary compliance by the motoring public. The intent is not to supplant the judgement of your officers, for it is impossible to foresee every conceivable situation involving traffic violations. These guidelines are intended to heighten the awareness of the importance of using occupant restraint systems within your agency and the community. Promoting a uniform approach and outlining enforcement activities can help realize the goal of reducing fatalities and injuries in traffic crashes.

Discussion

Research clearly indicates that the use of safety belts and child safety seats has a significant effect in reducing the number of deaths and the severity of injuries resulting from traffic crashes. Strong evidence also indicates that the level of public compliance with a law of this nature has a direct relationship to the number of persons who will survive a serious traffic crash. Therefore, enforcement is considered an essential part of achieving citizen compliance.

Officer Guidelines

  • Officers should ensure that safety restraints are addressed at every traffic enforcement contact, including providing positive reinforcement if they observe proper safety restraint use. All vehicle occupants should be checked for compliance.
  • When safety restraints are not being used correctly, officers should provide the appropriate educational information to encourage their proper use.
  • If the non-use or intentional misuse of safety restraints is noted, officers should take appropriate enforcement action.
  • All enforcement actions should be accomplished in a firm, fair, impartial and courteous manner using one of the following methods:
    Verbal warning
    Citation (notice to appear)
    Written warning
  • Officers’ actions should demonstrate a professional attitude and serve to improve the relationship between the public and the department.

Enforcement Agency Activities

  • Training for officers and supervisory staff about crash risk and correct occupant protection use for law enforcement personnel, and about the need for safety belt use laws and their enforcement. This would include academy training as well as periodic inservice training activities.
  • Adoption of an agency safety belt use policy for enforcement personnel.
  • Routine, periodic supervisory review to maintain officer compliance with the agency safety belt use policy.
  • Written enforcement policies for the jurisdictions safety belt use and/or child passenger safety laws containing enforcement programs and strategies that enhance enforcement of the laws, particularly in secondary enforcement states.
  • Aggressive, localized public information and education efforts to raise community awareness about crash risk, correct occupant protection use, the need for safety belt use laws and their enforcement.
  • Positive recognition programs such as the 70 percent, 80 percent and 90 percent Plus Awards Program, as well as survivor (Saved by the Belt) programs for both law enforcement personnel in the community and for the general public.
  • Support for organized enforcement/public information recognition programs in the state, such as a Chief’s Challenge Program.
  • Support for the formation of a state-level task force or coalition to solidify the effort to encourage more public belt use, and participation in programs generated by this organization.
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