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Seatbelt use by high school students
  1. A F Williams1,
  2. A T McCartt2,
  3. L Geary2
  1. 1Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Arlington, Virginia
  2. 2Preusser Research Group, Inc, Trumbull, Connecticut
  1. Correspondence and reprint requests to:
 Dr Allan F Williams, 1005 North Glebe Road, Arlington, VA 22201–4751, USA;


Objective: To determine seatbelt use of teenage drivers arriving at high schools in the morning and at evening football games compared with belt use of adults driving teenage passengers to these events, and teenage passenger belt use depending on whether they were being driven by another teenager or an adult.

Methods: Unobtrusive observations of belt use were made at 12 high schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Results: Among males, teenage drivers had lower belt use than adults; differences between female teenage and female adult drivers were slight. Teenage passengers had lower belt use in vehicles driven by other teenagers than in cars driven by adults, but more than 40% of teenage passengers in vehicles driven by adults, presumed in most cases to be the teenager’s parent, were not belted. Teenage passenger belt use was lower than teenage driver use regardless of gender. These differences were found both at morning arrivals and at football games, but teenage belt use was not much different in these two settings. Teenage passengers were belted more often if drivers were belted, whether the driver was another teenager or an adult, but a third of male passengers and 25%–30% of female passengers were unbelted even when drivers were belted.

Conclusion: Teenagers have high crash risk but low belt use, which adds to their injury problem. Avenues to address this include strong belt use laws and their enforcement, building belt use requirements into graduated licensing systems, keeping young beginners out of high risk driving situations, and finding ways to influence parents and other adults to ensure that their teenage passengers use seatbelts.

  • seatbelts
  • teenagers
  • passengers
  • high school
  • motor vehicle crashes

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