Benchmarking Policies that Impact Motor Vehicle Injuries

February 27, 2014

Those of us who work in traffic safety know that motor vehicle injury is a prevalent public health issue with multifaceted causes and far-reaching consequences. Last month, with the release of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2013 Prevention Status Reports, I was encouraged to see that the CDC identified motor vehicle injuries as one of the nation’s most important public health problems– along with excessive alcohol use, heart disease, and HIV, among others.

Each topic-specific Prevention Status Report highlights the status of certain policies and practices designed to prevent or reduce the identified health problem for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The policies impacting motor vehicle injuries are broken down into:

  • seat belt laws;
  • child passenger restraint laws;
  • Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) systems;
  • and ignition interlock laws.

You can view the full Motor Vehicle Injuries Prevention Status Report here.

Public safety laws, such as these, are often the cornerstone of effective injury prevention efforts. The Prevention Status Report focusing on motor vehicle injuries articulates current thoughts about ideal public policy and provides a barometer for our progress as a country in this area. Having specific metrics identified on a state-by-state level through these reports is an important resource for the traffic safety community.

As a research center, CIRP@CHOP has often generated evidence to support effective safety-focused laws and regulations. We also aim to look beyond laws to other interventions that complement them. For example, the metrics used to evaluate child passenger restraint laws in the Prevention Status Report target the group of children that research has established as particularly vulnerable to sub-optimal or no restraint in motor vehicles– 4- to 8-year-old children who should be restrained in a booster seat. CHOP research through the Partners for Child Passenger Safety study showed that families at risk for non-booster seat use by 4- to 8-year-old children typically involved parents or caregivers with any of the following characteristics:

  • A high school diploma or less education
  • Lower socioeconomic status
  • Being from a minority group (e.g., Latino/Hispanic, African-American)

In response, we developed Boosting Restraint Norms (BRN), a community-based social marketing campaign designed to promote booster seat use among these at-risk populations (you can read more about the implementation of BRN in a previous post by CIRP Scientific Director Flaura Winston). BRN and other similar programs provide families with the resources they need to successfully comply with the law. Ideally, these types of interventions can complement best practice policies to ensure that the next CDC Prevention Status Report shows even further positive progress, especially among vulnerable groups that may not be aware of the best practice messages that accompany an updated law.