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The Safety Effectiveness of Light-Duty Motor Vehicle Occupant Restraints: Numbers of Occupant Lives Saved and Injuries Prevented By Seat Belts in Road Traffic Collisions in Canada, 1989-1995
Published May 31, 1998 by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in United States
The first Canadian "National Symposium on Road Safety" was held in Montreal in 1988. The main purpose was to assess the prevailing levels of safety for the various road users of Canada''s roads and highways and identify issues and related goals to pursue for realizing a safer national road transportation system. One of the main recommendations was a commitment to work towards increasing the usage rates of occupant protection restraint systems (e.g., seat belts, child restraints). The reaction to this major goal identified was swift and decisive. A proposal~The National Occupant Restraint Program (NORP), was prepared by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) and presented to the federal and provincial ministers responsible for road safety in September of 1989. The Council of Ministers endorsed the program''s target objective of attaining a "95 percent restraint usage rate by occupants of light-duty motor vehicles by 1995."
Retrospective trend analyses or changes in seat belt usage rates during the six years of NORP demonstrate that the goal was quite realistic. Through National Seat Belt Use Surveys conducted annually by Transport Canada (1996) it was possible to monitor and assess improvements in occupant restraint usage. Two of the most significant and encouraging results revealed that national seat belt usage rates for drivers of passenger vehicles increased from 73.9% in 1989 to 91.6% in 1994~a percentage increase of about 24% and very close to the 6-year target objective established by NORP, and the usage rate for occupants of light-duty vehicles increased from 68% to 87% during the same period resulting in a 28% percentage increase.
The major issue that required addressing, however, was to evaluate any safety impacts that can be attributed to the NORP program. In particular, there is a need to know whether the observed increases in seat belt usage rates over the program period yielded significant benefits (i.e., reductions in fatalities and injuries for collision-involved motor vehicle occupants), and if so, to measure the extent and value of these benefits towards the ultimate goal~improving road safety. These general objectives formed the basis for the research study reported on in this paper.