Status of the Department of Transportation's Safety Belt Program

RCED-83-39: Published: Mar 23, 1983. Publicly Released: Apr 6, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO investigated the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) development and implementation of a nationwide multimillion-dollar program to encourage the use of safety belts.

GAO found that the program has generated considerable controversy, because past campaigns to increase safety belt use did not appear to have a lasting effect. The program relies heavily on voluntary actions and attempts to alter the various attitudes which currently limit safety belt use by: (1) disseminating public information; (2) conducting educational programs; (3) awarding financial and other incentives; and (4) encouraging safety belt use policies in the public and private sectors. GAO found that NHTSA has not specified the increased safety belt use that it expects to achieve under the program or the timeframe and related costs necessary to achieve and maintain the increased use. In addition, NHTSA has not conducted a cost-benefit analysis. GAO believed that a key factor affecting the success of the program will be the willingness of volunteer participants to make a long-term commitment of funds and other resources. As of January 1983, the program was not fully operational. GAO found that NHTSA needs to give further attention to: (1) research designed to provide information to program participants on the benefits and ways to conduct incentive programs and adopt mandatory use policies; and (2) development and implementation of NHTSA portion of the program's mass media segment. Further, GAO found that the Department of Transportation complied with Federal procurement regulations in issuing a contract to establish a nonprofit traffic safety foundation.

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