Objectives: Among the reasons cited for recent declines in alcohol-related traffic fatalities is the enactment of seat belt use laws by most states. It is suspected that drinking drivers are less likely to comply with such laws, although evidence on the relationship between belt use and drinking by drivers is sparse and conflicting. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship of drinking to driver seat belt use.
Methods: Observational, self-report, and chemical breath test data were collected on nighttime drivers in 16 Minnesota communities during September, 1990.
Results: Drivers with an illegal blood alcohol concentration (> or = 100 mg/dL) were substantially less likely to be wearing a seat belt (odds ratio [OR] = 2.17). Belt use was also more common among females (OR = 2.02) and before midnight (OR = 1.47). Males who had been drinking were less likely to be belted. Belt use was related to drinking before, but not after, midnight. Belt use was not related to drinking status among college graduates, but it was strongly related to drinking status among those with less education.
Conclusions: The present findings provide further argument for rapid implementation of passive countermeasures (airbags) and for development of creative, carefully focused interventions to target high-risk populations.