|Health Factors:||Community Safety|
|Decision Makers:||Local Government State Government Federal Government|
|Population Reach:||20-49% of WI's population|
|Impact on Disparities:|
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Primary seat belt enforcement laws allow law enforcement officials to stop drivers solely for failing to use a seat belt (CG-Motor vehicle injury). Primary seat belt laws differ from secondary seat belt laws, which allow police officers to issue a seat belt citation only after stopping the driver for another reason (NHTSA-Goodwin 2013).
There is strong evidence that primary seat belt enforcement laws increase the use of seat belts (CG-Motor vehicle injury). Primary enforcement laws increase seat belt use and reduce fatal and non-fatal injuries more effectively than secondary enforcement laws (CG-Motor vehicle injury).
States that change from secondary to primary seat belt enforcement laws have increased rates of seat belt use after primary enforcement laws go into effect (Dihn-Zarr 2001). Changing from secondary to primary enforcement has been shown to increase seat belt use during the day and night (NHTSA-Chaudhary 2010). Primary enforcement laws appear to have the largest effects among high-risk drivers, such as alcohol-impaired drivers, and among populations with lower rates of seat belt use, such as blacks and Hispanics (Dihn-Zarr 2001).
Despite concern, there is no evidence that minorities are stopped at higher rates than whites for seat belt violations in states with primary enforcement laws. Several states have added anti-harassment language to their primary seat belt laws to reduce the risk of such differential enforcement (Dihn-Zarr 2001).
Primary law enforcement can include paid media efforts (NHTSA-Nichols 2010, NHTSA-Hedlund 2008). Primary seat belt laws that are enforced with well-publicized seat belt use checkpoints appear to yield more benefits through quality adjusted life years (QALYs) saved and injuries prevented than they cost to implement (Miller 2000).
As of May 2015, 34 states and Washington, DC have primary seat belt laws for front seat occupants; in 17 of these states and Washington, DC, primary enforcement laws also cover rear seats (GHSA-Seat belt laws).
In 2009, Wisconsin passed a primary enforcement seat belt law. Under the law, drivers can be stopped when they or their passengers fail to use a seat belt. Drivers and passengers at least 16 years old are subject to a $10 fine and no points are assigned against the driver’s record. As of 2013, seat belt use among drivers and passengers in Wisconsin reached an all-time high of 83%, three percentage points lower than the national average of 86% (WI DOT-Seat belts).
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