Safety Belt Observations

Time of Year

February/May - SADD Calendar
Any time of year


Even though everyone knows safety belts save lives, many teens still don't wear them, which results in many unnecessary deaths and injuries.


To increase the awareness of safety belt usage and to make use a priority among teens

Lead by example! Always wear your safety belt whenever you are in a car. Statistics show that of the approximately 6,000 teen occupants who die in motor vehicle crashes every year, approximately two thirds (more than 4,000) are not wearing safety belts. The percentage of young people in alcohol-related crashes who are not wearing belts is even higher. We all know that safety belts save lives.  

Conduct a safety belt observation to highlight the safety belt usage in your school or community. You may want to conduct at least two safety belt observations and in between implement a safety belt program to highlight the consequences of not wearing a safety belt. Use the first survey to determine a baseline and use subsequent observations to show improvement as a result of your safety belt program.

Your goal should be 100% participation by the last observation! Ask the principal if he or she will sponsor a pizza day or ice cream day if you reach that goal. Post a chart in the cafeteria or another highly visible place. Mark the number of people wearing safety belts, so everyone can see and take pride in the progress.

What to Do

  1. Select safety belt observation teams of two or more people. Students, teachers, parents, local law enforcement, or other community members may serve on the observation teams.
  2. Decide who will be the observers and who will be the recorders. The observer will verbally give the information to the recorder as they view cars. The recorder will use a small stack of Data Collection Forms on a clipboard to fill out the data according to the ongoing verbal statements of the observer. An example of what the observer would call out might be "two occupants, driver, belted, front seat, not belted" or "four occupants, driver and front seat, unbelted, back seat, both belted."
  3. Observation teams should have 20 or more photocopies of the Data Collection Form with them during each observational survey. Click here to download the form. Be sure to keep the original in the manual to copy for future observational surveys.
  4. Have the Data Collection Forms, a clipboard, and a pencil or pen ready for each observational survey.
  5. Observation teams will observe the drivers, front seat right-side passengers, and backseat passengers to determine whether or not they are wearing a shoulder belt correctly over the body.
  6. Select your observation point. The safety of the observation teams is the first priority! When selecting specific locations to stand for observations, never place yourself in a dangerous spot for the sake of the data. Be sure to stand in a safe location so that drivers entering and exiting the parking lot can clearly see you! Here are some suggestions.
    • Choose a safe spot that is clearly visible to drivers.
    • Avoid driveways.
    • Stand safely in the parking lot, on a curb, on a sidewalk, or on the shoulder of the road.
    • Observe cars driving next to the curb, sidewalk, or shoulder you are standing safely on.
    • Observe only one traffic lane.
    • Observe cars going in one direction only.
    • Conduct surveys during periods of high traffic volume.   Observing vehicles entering the parking lot before school and/or vehicles exiting the parking lot after school makes the most sense for this purpose.
  7. Have observation teams practice for a few minutes prior to beginning the actual survey to review the procedures and requirements.
  8. Get permission and coordinate all safety belt observations with the appropriate school authorities. Be sure to let school officials know exactly where and when your surveys will take place and alert them of your presence prior to the observations. If asked by motorists what you are doing, indicate that you are involved in a traffic study but do not divulge the details of the survey. Keep your interactions to a minimum. If you are confronted by someone who accuses you of collecting personal or private data, assure the person that no personal data (license plate numbers, etc.) are being recorded. If at any time you feel uncomfortable with a person or situation you encounter, immediately suspend the data collection and return to your school or your vehicle.
  9. At the end of the observation period, teams should review all paperwork and confirm the data that was entered.  
  10. In between observations, implement a safety belt program, such as the three listed below (which can be found in this manual), or other awareness-raising messages.
    • School announcements
    • Quick Click Buckle Up Challenge
    • Safety Belt Pledge Drive


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