Por Amor - Costa Rica's Seat Belt Campaign
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Wearing a seat belt is the single most effective technical road safety measure a car occupant can take. It is estimated that 300,000 lives have been saved and 9 million injuries prevented by seat belts in the industrialized world since 1980. In low and middle income countries, however, the use of injury prevention devices such as seat belts, child restraints and motorcycle helmets is very low. It is in these countries that 80% of the estimated 1.2 million people killed on the roads worldwide each year die, including many car occupants. It is a major objective of the FIA Foundation to increase seat belt wearing rates worldwide among drivers and passengers alike.
From the autumn of 2003 until the summer of 2004, the FIA Foundation supported a nationwide campaign to promote seat belt wearing in Costa Rica in conjunction with the Costa Rican Ministry for Transport, the National Road Safety Council, the National Insurance Institute and the Costa Rican Automobile Club.
The campaign slogan "por amor use el cinturón" (for love use your seat belt) deliberately did not demand that Costa Ricans “obey an order”, something which had proved so disastrous in the past, but asked them to make the choice to wear a seat belt for the sake of family and friends.
This campaign was a pilot project based on the principles of ‘best practice’ developed in the FIA Foundation seat belt toolkit, which identifies the best methods to raise levels of seat belt use. The toolkit, prepared by international experts at the UK Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) is especially targeted at emerging countries that are confronted with an escalating number of road traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities as a result of increasing motorization.
In the 1990s compulsory seat belt legislation in Costa Rica was challenged by a group of radical libertarians. As a result the law was overturned and seat belt wearing rates fell to only 24%. The principle aim of the seat belt campaign in Costa Rica was to reinstate a seat belt law. This objective was achieved in May 2004 when the successful passage of new legislation once again made seat belt use compulsory for front and back seat car occupants.
Target and Results
The target was to achieve a seat belt wearing rate of 70%. However, a national seat belt survey conducted after the campaign in August 2003 confirmed that, owing to a combination of the compulsory seat belt legislation, traffic police enforcement and a media campaign, this target had been exceeded and seat belt wearing rates for drivers actually jumped from 24% to 82%.
The FIA Foundation evaluation report aims to share the lessons that the campaign partners learned and to act as a practical tool advising future campaigns. It is hoped that the positive results in Costa Rica will encourage other countries to undertake similar initiatives.
This case study was provided by the FIA Foundation for the Automobile and Society.
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