The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award
The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Awards recognize notable achievements in the field of highway safety during the prior calendar year by individuals, coalitions, organizations, nonprofit groups, businesses, government agencies, universities or programs. About Peter K. O'Rourke
2005 Winner: The North Central Highway Safety Network, Pennsylvania
The North Central Highway Safety Network, Pennsylvania, responsible for the Reading Nighttime Seatbelt Project.
In 2000, Pennsylvania's occupant safety belt rate was at 71 percent. By 2004, through the efforts of the North Central Highway Safety Network's statewide highway safety initiative Buckle Up PA, safety belt use had climbed to 82 percent. Yet, 81 percent of nighttime driving fatalities still involved unrestrained occupants. Buckle Up PA needed an innovative solution to reach out to the 2 million unrestrained nighttime occupants.
In the past, Buckle Up PA monitored drivers between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The Reading, Pennsylvania Nighttime Seat Belt Project, however, demonstrated the possibility of nighttime safety belt enforcement. Reading became the first community in the state to pilot night vision equipment for safety belt enforcement. With a strong media campaign and visible enforcement, front seat nighttime occupant use increased from 50 percent to 56 percent. Even daylight safety belt use increased from 56 percent to 59 percent.
Highly sophisticated night-vision equipment made the project possible. Handheld infrared spotlights allowed for nighttime observation and enforcement, negating the disabling effects of automobile headlights on earlier nighttime equipment. Twenty sites were chosen in Reading for experimental purposes and in Bethlehem for control purposes. Each site was observed twice a day-once during the daytime and again at night for 30 days.
The media component of the program focused on earned media and used a network of police departments and community organizations to spread the word about the project. The Hispanic Council was used to translate and disseminate materials to the Hispanic population.
Occupant safety belt use was significantly greater in Reading than in Bethlehem. Reading even experienced a trickle down effect from nighttime to daylight, as both periods experienced an increase in safety belt use. Working with local media, the Reading School District, the Fire Department & EMS, the Nighttime Seat Belt Project demonstrated that seat belt enforcement is possible at any time of the day.
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