I. Introduction

Buckle Up America (BUA) is a national initiative to increase the use of seat belts nationwide. The National highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) plan was announced on April 16, 1997. At the same time, Executive Order 13043 was issued, which requires belt use by federal employees on the job and all motor vehicle occupants in national parks or defense installations. The Executive Order also recommends seat belt use policies and programs for federal contractors, grantees, and Tribal Governments.

It has long been recognized that proper use of occupant restraints is the simplest and most effective way of reducing injuries and saving lives available to drivers and passengers. While there has been continued emphasis in one form or another from the federal government and many other institutions to buckle everyone up, a large number of people still do not. A year before beginning the BUA initiative, national belt use was at 61 percent (National Occupant Protection Usage Survey) (NHTSA, 2000a). BUA is an all-out effort to get the 39 percent who do not buckle up to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Proper protection of our nation's children, with child safety seats and booster seats for the very young and adult belts for older children, is a long-term emphasis for BUA. Particular focus recently was placed on the proper restraint of the youngest children in child safety seats through at least three channels. First, the General Motors' child safety seat distribution program part of a settlement agreement with the U.S. DOT. Second, publicity surrounding the deaths of children caused by air bag deployment. Finally, extensive survey results showing that the vast majority of parents who place their children in safety seats do so improperly (80 to 90%). In 1994, 682 children under the age of five died in motor vehicles; only 24 percent were in child safety seats; 13 percent were in adult seat belts; and 61 percent were unrestrained.

The BUA Initiative contains two objectives:

  1. Increase seat belt use to 85 percent by the year 2000 and to 90 percent by 2005;
  2. Decrease fatalities to children under the age of five by 15 percent by 2000 and by 25 percent by 2005.

There are four components to BUA: building partnerships, to bring all aspects of the community to bear; enacting new legislation, to make it clear that elected officials are behind BUA; conducting strong enforcement, to make sure the public understands that non-use can have immediate costs; and expanding public information & education, to continue educating and motivating the public to use seat belts and to provide specific how-to knowledge to those using child safety seats.

This report documents two overall evaluation objectives. The first was to evaluate outcomes including increased occupant restraint use and reduced fatalities. The second was to document efforts in response to the four components of the BUA Initiative and to the Executive Order 13043.