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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed whether federal and state efforts have been successful in increasing the use of safety belts in motor vehicles, focusing on: (1) the progress that has been made in achieving seat belt use goals; (2) state strategies that have been successful in increasing seat belt use; and (3) federal strategies that could increase seat belt use.

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Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
If Congress wants to promote a comprehensive nationwide program for increasing safety belt use, it could encourage the states to adopt a primary enforcement law that covers all occupants in all vehicles in which belts are installed. Those states that do not enact such a comprehensive law could continue to be subject to the provision in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act requiring a transfer of up to 3 percent of their federal-aid highway funds to their state highway safety programs.
Closed - Implemented
In its June 11, 1996, appropriations report, the Committee directed NHTSA/DOT to develop and distribute to all states a model seat belt use law as part of its 1996 program.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Transportation 1. In view of the large differences in the rates of safety belt use between the occupants of passenger cars and the occupants of light trucks, the Secretary of Transportation should ensure that DOT provides special emphasis and targeted programs to increase belt use by the occupants of light trucks.
Closed - Implemented
NHTSA has initiated a number of ongoing efforts to address this recommendation. A series of focus group tests with pickup truck drivers resulted in two targeted public service announcements. Distribution of these spots has begun. Another public service message targeting pickup truck drivers has been developed with the support of the Ad Council. This production was released in June 1996. NHTSA plans to launch a project with a rural health organization to educate rural pickup truck drivers to the need for proper occupant protection. This is to begin in fall 1996.

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