Results of Transport Canada’s Rural and Urban Surveys of Seat Belt Use in Canada 2009-2010

Fact Sheet TP 2436E
RS-2011-01
January 2011

Road Safety and Motor Vehicle
Regulation Directorate



BACKGROUND

The National Occupant Restraint Program (NORP 2010) is an important element of Road Safety Vision 2010 — an ambitious partnership approved by the federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for transportation and highway safety to make Canada’s roads the safest in the world. The objective of the National Occupant Restraint Program is to achieve a minimum 95% rate for national seat belt use and the proper use of child restraints by all motor vehicle occupants. Transport Canada’s contribution to this program of promoting seat belt use is to conduct observational surveys.

In September 2009, Transport Canada conducted an observational survey of seat belt use in rural communities across Canada. Then, in September 2010, the same survey was conducted in urban communities. Data on cell phone use by drivers were also collected.

METHOD

The September 2009 and September 2010 surveys measured the seat belt usage separately in rural Canada and urban Canada. Rural Canada includes towns with a population of fewer than 10,000 but more than 1,000 inhabitants that are located outside any census metropolitan area or census agglomeration1. Urban Canada includes communities with a population over 10,000, plus those communities with a population of less than 10,000 that are located within a census metropolitan area.

The rural survey targeted all occupants of light-duty vehicles, which included passenger cars, light trucks, minivans and sport utility vehicles (SUVs). The survey, which occurred over the week of September 15 to 21, 2009, involved 252 sites. Each observation period was two hours long and took place during daylight hours (between 7:30 a.m. and 18:30 p.m.). A total of 22,642 vehicles and 30,831 occupants were observed during the course of the survey.

The urban survey targeted all occupants of light-duty vehicles, which included passenger cars, light trucks, minivans and SUVs. This survey, which was conducted over the week of September 15 to 21, 2010, involved 286 sites. Each observation period was two hours long and took place during daylight hours (between 7:30 a.m. and 18:30 p.m.). A total of 74,475 vehicles and 98,540 occupants were observed during the course of the study.

Therefore, during the two surveys, a total of 97,117 vehicles and 129,371 occupants were observed at 538 sites across Canada.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • In Canada, 95.3% (± 0.1%) of occupants of light-duty vehicles buckle up. In urban communities, an estimated 95.8% (± 0.1%) of all occupants and an estimated 92.0% (± 0.3%) of all occupants of light-duty vehicles in rural communities use seat belts. The national seat belt use rate measured in the 2009-2010 surveys is 2.8 percentage points higher than that measured in the 2006-2007 surveys. The national seat belt use rate for drivers only is 95.7%.
  • The rate of seat belt use in Canada is much lower among occupants of pickup trucks (92.0%) than among occupants of passenger cars (94.8%) and minivans and SUVs (95.4%). Specifically looking at drivers, the rates were 95.2% for passenger cars, 95.6% for minivans and SUVs, and 92.7% for pickup trucks. Similar trends were evident in both the rural and urban communities of the country.
  • A higher percentage of female drivers (96.0%) than male drivers (94.3%) wore seat belts. The higher rate of seat belt use by females is consistent across all three vehicle types and is generally consistent across all provinces and territories.
  • The proportion of drivers wearing seat belts tends to increase with the driver’s age group, but this finding is not consistent across all jurisdictions. In Canada as a whole, the proportion ranges from 93.0% of those under 25, to 94.8% of those 25 to 49 and 96.0% of those 50 and older.
  • The rate of seat belt use in Canada is lower among back seat occupants (89.2%) than among front seat occupants (95.5%). The higher rate of seat belt use by front seat occupants is generally consistent across all jurisdictions with a few exceptions.

DETAILED RESULTS

Seat Belt Use for All Occupants by Province or Territory

Chart 1 shows that in rural communities, an estimated 92.0% (± 0.3%) of all occupants of light duty vehicles use seat belts. Jurisdictions at or above the national average were New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. Those below the national average were Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The seat belt use rates were not measured in Nunavut in 2009.

Chart 1: Rural Canada Seat Belt Use - All Occupants of Light Duty Vehicles by Province or Territory - 2009
Chart 1: Rural Canada Seat Belt Use - All Occupants of Light Duty Vehciles by Province or Territory - 2009

Comparison of the rural survey results for 2006 and 2009

  • In rural communities, seat belt use by occupants of light duty vehicles increased 3.7 percentage points between the surveys of 2006 (88.3%) and 2009 (92.0%).

Chart 2 shows that in urban communities, an estimated 95.8% (± 0.1%) of all occupants of light-duty vehicles use seat belts. Jurisdictions at or above the national average were Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Those below the national average were Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Alberta, and the two territories surveyed.

Chart 2: Urban Canada Seat Belt Use - All Occupants of Light Duty Vehicles by Province or Territory - 2010
Chart 2: Urban Canada Seat Belt Use - All Occupants of Light Duty Vehicles by Province or Territory - 2010

Comparison of the urban survey results for 2007 and 2010

  • Seat belt use by occupants of light duty vehicles in urban communities increased to 95.8% in 2010, up 2.7 percentage points from 93.1% in 2007.

Chart 3 shows that an estimated 95.3% (±0.1%) of all occupants of light-duty vehicles in Canada use seat belts. The jurisdictions at or above the national average in 2009-2010 were Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Those below the national average were Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Alberta, and two of the three territories. The seat belt use rates were not measured in Nunavut in 2009.

Chart 3: Rural and Urban Canada, Seat Belt Use - All Occupants of Light Duty Vehicles by Province or Territory, 2009-2010
Chart 3: Rural and Urban Canada, Seat Belt Use - All Occupants of Light Duty Vehicles by Province or Territory, 2009-2010

Comparison of the national survey results for 2006-2007 and 2009-2010

  • In Canada, the combined rural/urban surveys resulted in an estimated seat belt use rate of 95.3% for all occupants of light duty vehicles for 2009-2010, up 2.8 percentage points from the 92.5% estimate from the 2006-2007 surveys.

Seat Belt Use by Light Duty Vehicle Type

In the rural survey, 42.1% of vehicles were passenger cars, 26.8% were minivans and SUVs, and 31.1% were light trucks.

Chart 4 shows that in rural communities, the rate of seat belt use is much lower among all occupants of pickup trucks (89.7%) than of passenger cars (93.1%) and minivans and SUVs (94.4%). For drivers specifically, the rates were 93.0% for passenger cars, 94.2% for minivans and SUVs and 90.2% for pickup trucks.

Chart 4: Rural Canada Seat Belt Use - All Occupants by Light-Duty Vehicle Type - 2009
Chart 4: Rural Canada Seat Belt Use - All Occupants by Light-Duty Vehicle Type - 2009

In the urban survey, 54.5% of vehicles were passenger cars, 27.5% were minivans and SUVs, and 18.0% were light trucks.

Chart 5 shows that in urban Canada, the rate of seat belt use is much lower among all occupants of pickup trucks (92.4%) than of passenger cars (95.1%) and minivans and SUVs (95.5%). For drivers specifically, the rates were 95.6% for passenger cars, 95.9% for minivans and SUVs and 93.1% for pickup trucks.

Chart 5: Urban Canada Seat Belt Use - All Occupants by Light-Duty Vehicle Type - 2010
Chart 5: Urban Canada Seat Belt Use - All Occupants by Light-Duty Vehicle Type - 2010

In the 2009-2010 surveys, 51.6% of vehicles were passenger cars, 27.3% were minivans and SUVs, and 21.1% were light trucks.

Chart 6 shows that in Canada, the rate of seat belt use is much lower among all occupants of pickup trucks (92.0%) than among those of passenger cars (94.8%) and minivans and SUVs (95.4%). For drivers specifically, the rates were 95.2% for passenger cars, 95.6% for minivans and SUVs and 92.7% for pickup trucks.

Chart 6: Rural and Urban Canada, Seat Belt Use - All Occupants by Light-Duty Vehicle Type - 2009-2010
Chart 6: Rural and Urban Canada, Seat Belt Use - All Occupants by Light-Duty Vehicle Type - 2009-2010

Seat Belt Use by Gender of Driver and Vehicle Type

Chart 7 shows that a higher percentage of female drivers wear seat belts (94.5%) than male drivers (91.0%) in rural communities.

  • The higher rate of seat belt use by females was consistent across all three vehicle types. The difference ranged from 0.7 percentage points for minivans and SUVs (94.6% for females vs. 93.9% for males) to 3.6 points for light trucks (93.3% for females vs. 89.7% for males).
     
  • Other data from the survey show that the higher rate of seat belt use by females is consistent across all provinces and territories, except Prince Edward Island and the Yukon. Among the provinces and territories with a higher rate of seat belt usage by females, the differences ranged from 1.7 percentage points in Ontario (98.3% for females vs. 96.6% for males) to 31.1 points in the Northwest Territories (64.9% for females vs. 33.8% for males).

Chart 7: Rural Canada Seat Belt Use by Gender of Driver and Vehicle Type - 2009
Chart 7: Rural Canada Seat Belt Use by Gender of Driver and Vehicle Type - 2009

Chart 8 shows that a higher percentage of female drivers wear seat belts (96.2%) than male drivers (94.7%) in urban communities.

  • The higher rate of seat belt use by females was consistent across all three vehicle types. The difference ranged from 0.6 percentage points for minivans and SUVs (96.2% for females vs. 95.6% for males) to 3.5 points for light trucks (96.2% for females vs. 92.7% for males).
  • Other data from the survey show that the higher rate of seat belt use by females is consistent across all provinces and territories, except Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northwest Territories. Among the provinces and territories with a higher rate of seat belt usage by females, the differences ranged from 0.8 percentage points in Quebec and British Columbia (97.9% for females vs. 97.1% for males in Quebec and 98.7% for females vs. 97.9% for males in British Columbia) to 13.7 points in the Yukon (94.1% for females vs. 80.4% for males).

Chart 8: Urban Canada Seat Belt Use by Gender of Driver and Vehicle Type - 2010
Chart 8: Urban Canada Seat Belt Use by Gender of Driver and Vehicle Type - 2010

Chart 9 shows that a higher percentage of female drivers wear seat belts (96.0%) than male drivers (94.3%) in Canada.

  • The higher rate of seat belt use by females was consistent across all three vehicle types. The difference ranged from 0.6 percentage points for minivans and SUVs (96.0% for females vs. 95.4% for males) to 3.5 points for light trucks (95.8% for females vs. 92.3% for males).
     
  • Other data from the surveys show that the higher rate of seat belt use by females is consistent across all provinces and territories, except Newfoundland and Labrador. Among the provinces and territories with a higher rate of seat belt usage by females, the difference ranged from 1.0 percentage points in Quebec (97.1% for females vs. 96.1% for males) to 12.6 points in the Yukon (86.1% for females vs. 73.5% for males).

Chart 9: Rural and Urban Canada, Seat Belt Use by Gender of Driver and Vehicle Type, 2009-2010
Chart 9: Rural and Urban Canada, Seat Belt Use by Gender of Driver and Vehicle Type, 2009-2010

Seat Belt Use by Age Group of Driver

Chart 10 shows that the proportion of drivers wearing seat belts in rural communities increases with their age group, from 88.6% of those under 25, to 91.7% of those 25 to 49 and 94.4% of those 50 and older.

  • Other data from the survey show that the increased rate of seat belt use with age is generally consistent across the three vehicle types:
    • For drivers of passenger cars, those 50 and older had a use rate of 95.7% (vs. 89.6% for those under 25 and 92.5% for those 25 to 49).
    • For drivers of minivans and SUVs, those 50 and older had a use rate of 97.0% (vs. 91.3% for those under 25 and 93.3% for those 25 to 49).
    • For drivers of light trucks, those 50 and older had a use rate of 90.8% (vs. 86.1% for those under 25 and 89.8% for those 25 to 49).

Chart 10: Rural Canada Seat Belt Use by Age Group of Driver - 2009
Chart 10: Rural Canada Seat Belt Use by Age Group of Driver - 2009

Chart 11 shows that the proportion of drivers wearing seat belts in urban communities increases with age group, from 93.7% of those under 25, to 95.2% of those 25 to 49 and 96.3% of those 50 and older.

  • Other data from the survey show that the increased rate of seat belt use with age is generally consistent across the three vehicle types:
    • For drivers of passenger cars, those 50 and older had a use rate of 96.7% (vs. 94.3% for those under 25 and 95.4% for those 25 to 49).
    • For drivers of minivans and SUVs, those 50 and older had a use rate of 96.9% (vs. 93.8% for those under 25 and 95.8% for those 25 to 49).
    • For drivers of light trucks, those 50 and older had a use rate of 94.5% (vs. 82.7% for those under 25 and 93.7% for those 25 to 49).

Chart 11: Urban Canada Seat Belt Use by Age Group of Driver - 2010
Chart 11: Urban Canada Seat Belt Use by Age Group of Driver - 2010

Chart 12 shows that the proportion of drivers wearing seat belts in both rural and urban Canada increases with age group, from 93.0% of those under 25, to 94.8% of those 25 to 49 and 96.0% of those 50 and older.

  • Other data from the survey show that the increased rate of seat belt use with age is consistent across the three vehicle types:
    • For drivers of passenger cars, those 50 and older had a use rate of 96.5% (vs. 93.7% for those under 25 and 95.0% for those 25 to 49).
    • For drivers of minivans and SUVs, those 50 and older had a use rate of 96.9% (vs. 93.5% for those under 25 and 95.5% for those 25 to 49).
    • For drivers of light trucks, those 50 and older had a use rate of 94.0% (vs. 83.2% for those under 25 and 93.2% for those 25 to 49).

Chart 12: Rural and Urban Canada, Seat Belt Use by Age Group of Driver 2009-2010
Chart 12: Rural and Urban Canada, Seat Belt Use by Age Group of Driver 2009-2010

Chart 13 shows the proportion of belted occupants in the front seat and in the back seat of light duty vehicles in Canada. The seat belt use rate is considerably lower for the back seat occupants of light duty vehicles.

Chart 13: Seat Belt Use for Front and Back Seat Occupants 2009-2010
Chart 13: Seat Belt Use for Front and Back Seat Occupants 2009-2010

Driver Cell Phone Use by Jurisdiction

Chart 14 shows that an estimated 3.6% (± 0.3%) of drivers in rural communities were using a cell phone in 2009. Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan were at or above the national average. Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories were below the national average. No data was collected in Nunavut in 2009.

Chart 14: Rural Canada, Driver Cell Phone Use by Province/Territory - 2009
Chart 14: Rural Canada, Driver Cell Phone Use by Province/Territory - 2009

Comparison of the rural survey results for 2006 and 2009

In rural communities, cell phone use by drivers of light duty vehicles increased by 0.8 percentage points between the surveys of 2006 (2.8%) and 2009 (3.6%).

Chart 15 shows that in 2010 an estimated 3.3% (± 0.2%) of drivers in urban communities were using a cell phone. Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Alberta and British Columbia were at or above the national average. New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories were below the national average.

Chart 15: Urban Canada, Driver Cell Phone Use by Province/Territory - 2010
Chart 15: Urban Canada, Driver Cell Phone Use by Province/Territory - 2010

Comparison of the urban survey results for 2007 and 2010

In urban communities, cell phone use by drivers of light duty vehicles decreased by 2.6 percentage points between the surveys of 2007 (5.9%) and 2010 (3.3%).

Chart 16 shows that an estimated 3.3% (± 0.2%) of drivers in Canada were using a cell phone. Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia were at or above the national average. New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories were below the national average. No data was collected in Nunavut in 2009.

Chart 16: Rural and Urban Canada, Driver Cell Phone Use by Province/Territory - 2009-2010
Chart 16: Rural and Urban Canada, Driver Cell Phone Use by Province/Territory - 2009-2010

Comparison of the national survey results for 2006-2007 and 2009-2010

In Canada, the combined rural/urban surveys resulted in an estimated cell phone use of 3.3% by all drivers of light duty vehicles for 2009-2010, down 2.2 percentage points from the 5.5% estimate from the 2006-2007 surveys.

CONCLUSION

Road Safety Vision 2010 is targeting a decrease of 30% in the average annual number of road users killed or seriously injured during the 2008–2010 period compared with 1996–2001. Sub-targets include reducing casualties resulting from non-use of restraint systems and decreasing casualties resulting from crashes occurring on rural roadways; and achieving a 95% seat belt usage rate.

The urban and rural seat belt use surveys summarized here represent one of a number of important Vision 2010 initiatives undertaken by the National Occupant Restraint Program (NORP 2010) Task Force.

The results suggest that Canada has achieved the 95% target for seat belt use for all occupants of light duty vehicles. However, much work remains to be done in several regions of the country.



1 To be more exact, the definition used in this survey also includes those communities that have a population over 10,000 but are not classified as census agglomerations in Statistics Canada 2006 census.



This publication is prepared by the Motor Vehicle Safety Directorate and may be reproduced without permission provided that its use is solely for the purposes of private study, research, criticism, review or newspaper summary, and the source is fully acknowledged.

To find out more about national road safety programs and initiatives, call Transport Canada at 1 800 333-0371 or (613) 998-8616 in the Ottawa area, or e-mail us at: mvs-sa@tc.gc.ca.

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