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Results of Transport Canada's surveys of seat belt use in Canada 2002-2003

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Road Safety and Motor Vehicle Regulation
Transport Canada

Road Safety Fact Sheet
RS-2004-05E
TP2436 E
September 2004



BACKGROUND

The National Occupant Restraint Program (NORP) is an important element of Road Safety Vision 2010 – an ambitious partnership approved by the federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for transportation and highway safety to make Canada's roads the safest in the world. The objective of NORP is to achieve a minimum rate of 95% in seat belt usage and in the proper use of child restraints by all motor vehicle occupants by 2010. Part of Transport Canada's contribution to this program is to conduct observational surveys of seat belt use. In September 2002, Transport Canada conducted an observational survey of seat belt use in rural communities across Canada. In September 2003, the same survey was conducted in urban communities.

METHOD

The September 2002 and September 2003 surveys were the first of their kind: the first to measure the seat belt usage rate separately in rural Canada and urban Canada. Rural Canada was defined as towns with a population of less than 10,000 but more than 1,000 that are located outside any census metropolitan area, as defined by Statistics Canada's 2001 national census. Urban Canada was defined as communities with a population over 10,000, plus those communities with a population of less than 10,000 that are located within a census metropolitan area. 

The rural survey targeted front seat occupants of passenger cars, pickup trucks, and minivans and sport utility vehicles (SUVs). It was conducted at intersections with stop signs, which did not provide sufficient vehicle stopping time to observe the back seat occupants. The survey occurred over the week of September 23 to September 29, 2002, and involved two separate observation periods at each of 124 sites. Each observation period was two hours long and took place during daylight hours (between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.). A total of 35,402 vehicles and 48,115 occupants were observed during the course of the study.

The urban survey targeted all occupants of passenger cars, pickup trucks, and minivans and SUVs. Most intersections had traffic lights, which allow sufficient vehicle stopping time to observe all occupants. This survey, which was conducted over the week of September 22 to September 28, 2003, involved two separate observation periods at each of 260 sites. Each observation period was one hour long and took place during daylight hours (between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.). A total of 69,983 vehicles and 103,451 occupants were observed during the course of the study.

During the two surveys, therefore, a total of 105,385 vehicles and 151,566 occupants were observed at 384 sites across Canada. For the purposes of this report, when we combine the data from the two surveys, the rates of seat belt use are calculated only for front seat occupants.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • In Canada, 87.4% (±1.0%) of front seat occupants of light-duty vehicles buckle up. In urban communities, an estimated 87.2% (±1.0%) of all occupants or 87.6% (±1.1%) of front seat occupants of light-duty vehicles use seat belts, while an estimated 85.0% (±1.2%) of front seat occupants of light-duty vehicles in rural communities use seat belts.
  • The rate of seat belt usage in Canada is much lower among the front seat occupants of pickup trucks (80.0%) than among the front seat occupants of passenger cars (88.9%) and minivans and SUVs (88.1%). Specifically looking at drivers, the rates were 89.1% for passenger cars, 87.9% for minivans and SUVs, and 79.6% for pickup trucks. Similar findings were evident in both the rural and urban communities of the country.
  • A higher percentage of female drivers wore seat belts (89.3%) than male drivers (86.5%) in Canada. The higher rate of seat belt usage by females was consistent across all three vehicle types and all provinces and territories.
  • The proportion of drivers wearing seat belts tends to increase with the driver's age group, but this finding is not consistent across all jurisdictions. In Canada as a whole, the proportion ranges from 85.2% of those under 25, to 88.1% of those 25 to 49 and 87.9% of those 50 and older.

DETAILED RESULTS

Seat Belt Usage by Front Seat Occupants by Province/Territory

Seat Belt Usage by Light-Duty Vehicle Type

Seat Belt Usage by Gender of Driver

Seat Belt Usage by Age Group of Drivers

CONCLUSION

Road Safety Vision 2010 is targeting a decrease of 30% in the average annual number of road users killed or seriously injured during the 2008-2010 period compared with 1996 2001. Sub targets include reducing casualties resulting from non-use of restraint systems and decreasing casualties resulting from crashes occurring on rural roadways.

The urban and rural seat belt wearing surveys summarized here represent one of a number of important Vision 2010 initiatives undertaken by the NORP Task Force. The survey results will help build a business case for the adoption of measures to increase seat belt usage rates in Canada by 2010.

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This publication is prepared by the Road Safety and Motor Vehicle Regulation Directorate and may be reproduced without permission provided that its use is solely for the purposes of private study, research, criticism, review or newspaper summary, and the source is fully acknowledged.
 
Date modified:
2012-02-07