On February 22, The Tennessee Governor’s Highway Safety Office (GHSO) joined members of the University of Tennessee Center for Transportation Research, Tennessee Highway Patrol, and law enforcement agencies in East Tennessee to announce increased seat belt enforcement and the launch of the Seat Belts Are For Everyone (SAFE) campaign for the region. CEE professor Shashi Nambisan has been leading a research project through the University of Tennessee Center for Transportation Research to find effective strategies to increase seat belt usage rates. This project, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and supported by the GHSO, seeks to find effective means to increase seat belt usage rates, including strategic law enforcement activities. This research and the SAFE campaign are complementary.
The SAFE campaign is designed to increase seat belt and child passenger safety restraint usage in Tennessee. In recent years nearly half of the individuals killed in traffic crashes in Tennessee were not wearing a seat belt. The statewide seat belt usage rate is about 86 percent, which means that half of Tennessee’s fatalities come from only fourteen percent of the population. “So, even small increases in seat belt usage rates can lead to significant reductions in fatalities and injury severity resulting from traffic crashes,” says Professor Nambisan. He added that this partnership between UT and various law enforcement agencies is vital to enhancing road safety and it is illustrative of the broader impacts of the societal benefits of research conducted at UT.
Nambisan and law enforcement agencies hope to reduce the number of fatalities with this public awareness campaign. Law enforcement is participating in the campaign by planning and implementing occupant protection initiatives in their communities now through July. This is the third year that the Governor’s Highway Safety Office has held this campaign, and 159 law enforcement agencies have pledged to participate across the state.