Epidemiology: Risk Factor Research

The Impact of a Primary-Enforcement Seat-Belt Law on Health Care Costs in Washington State

Principal Investigator: Beth Ebel, M.D., M.Sc., M.P.H.
University of Washington Department of Pediatrics
Funding Source: Washington Traffic Safety Commission

Seat belts are highly effective at preventing motor vehicle injury, reducing the risk of death by as much as 73 percent, and the risk of serious injuries to the head, chest and abdomen by as much as 81 percent, 52 percent and 60 percent, respectively, relative to unrestrained occupants. Primary-enforcement seatbelt laws, under which vehicles can be stopped and cited for seat-belt law violations alone, are much more effective than secondary enforcement laws. The aim of this project is to estimate the medical costs, by category of payer, for crash injuries involving unrestrained motor vehicle occupants as compared with restrained occupants in the state of Washington, and to estimate the cost savings resulting from the primary enforcement seat belt legislation.