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What Works: Strategies to Increase Restraint Use

The strategies in this section are effective for increasing seat belt, car seat, and booster seat use. They are recommended by The Guide to Community Preventive Services and/or have been demonstrated to be effective in reviews by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.* Different strategies may require different resources for implementation or have different levels of impact. Find strategies that are right for your state.

Strategies to increase seat belt use

Primary seat belt laws

Primary seat belt laws allow police officers to stop and ticket someone for not buckling up. On average, primary laws result in higher rates of seat belt use than secondary seat belt laws, which allow officers to give tickets only if they have pulled the driver over for another reason. Seat belt laws are most effective when they cover occupants in all seats of the vehicle.

Increased penalties

Increased penalties for violating seat belt laws may include higher fines or points on a driver’s license.

Short-term, high-visibility enforcement

Short-term, high-visibility enforcement involves a brief period of increased police efforts including checkpoints or saturation patrols. These efforts are highly publicized through a media campaign that mixes both earned media coverage and paid advertisements. Combining law enforcement and media coverage is particularly effective for reaching people who typically don’t use seat belts regularly, such as men, teens, and young adults.

Combined nighttime enforcement programs

Combined nighttime enforcement programs are short-term, highly visible enforcement strategies. They are conducted at night, when seat belt use is lowest and crashes are most common. They are combined with enforcement of other laws, such as impaired driving laws. This can help law enforcement target limited funding and resources for the greatest public safety impact.

Strategies to increase car seat and booster seat use

Child restraint laws

Child restraint laws require children riding in a car to use approved restraint devices (car seats, booster seats, or seat belts) appropriate for their age, height, and weight. Strengthening current laws with booster seat provisions helps reduce injuries and deaths by requiring children who have outgrown car seats to use booster seats through age 8 years or until seat belts fit properly.

Enhanced enforcement

Enhanced enforcement programs for child passenger safety are similar to those used for seat belt use (see above). Effective programs are short-term, highly visible in the community, and advertised widely in the media.

Distribution plus education programs

Distribution plus education programs help parents and caregivers get access to car seats through giveaways, loans, or low-cost rentals. They also teach the importance of car seats and how to properly use and install them.

Incentive and education programs

Incentive and education programs reward parents or children with coupons or other prizes for correctly using car seats. Programs offer print materials, videos, or other instructional aids for parents and caregivers.


The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide), Motor Vehicle-Related Injury Prevention, at, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2013). Countermeasures that work: a highway safety countermeasures guide for State Highway Safety Offices, 7th edition, at

State Fact Sheets and Data

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Working together, we can help keep people safe on the road – every day. Encourage drivers and passengers to buckle up on every trip.

Fact sheets are available for each state and the District of Columbia and include national and state data on restraint use and occupant crash deaths, as well as an overview of proven strategies for increasing the use of seat belts, car seats, and booster seats.

Need data for your state? View and download seat belt datasets from our State Data web page.


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