UTAH – Together for Life:
In 2013, Utah discovered that considerably fewer people in rural areas of the state (55%) were using their seat belts compared to people in urban areas (85%). Since seat belts are proven to save lives in serious crash situations and vehicle crashes in rural areas tend to have more detrimental outcomes than in urban areas, the state decided to investigate why people in rural areas were less likely to protect themselves by always using a seat belt?
Utah engaged the Center for Health and Safety Culture to understand why fewer people in rural areas were using their seat belts and to pilot a behavior change project in seven rural counties to increase seat belt use by means other than enforcement. After five years of research, assessment of beliefs and behaviors, and comprehensive behavior change efforts in the seven designated Utah counties, seat belt use rates in those rural areas increased!
The Center applied the Positive Culture Framework as a mechanism for understanding, measuring, and ultimately growing the positive shared beliefs that rural residents already had about using seat belts. Once these beliefs were understood, resources were created for local public health coordinators who worked in each county to use with their stakeholders and community members -- the Together for Life project. The theme “Together for Life” was chosen as a motivational slogan promoting the proactive safety behavior -- always using a seat belt -- among loved ones, friends, and coworkers as a way to prevent injury and death. Encouraging people to be “together for life” by ensuring important people in their lives always use their seat belts was the goal. This was promoted by growing the occurrence of families who have rules about always wearing a seat belt, workplaces that have policies requiring employees to always use a seat belt, and bystander engagement where people feel empowered to ask others to please buckle up.
The Together for Life pilot project included tools (toolkits and media: video, radio, and print) for working with law enforcement, workplaces, key leaders, community members, students, and school staff. A guide from the Center coached and supported coordinators from the seven counties along their journey implementing the Together for Life project in their communities. Observed seat belt use in the seven pilot counties increased by an average of 20% from 2012 to 2019. When beliefs and behaviors were reassessed in 2019, analyses showed that changes in adult beliefs and behaviors were particularly more notable among those who had seen or heard the “Together for Life” media.
Due to the initial success of Together for Life, the Highway Safety Office of the Utah Department of Public Safety engaged the Center again to carry on the positive efforts in the seven pilot counties and now in two additional rural counties where seat belt use rates need improvement. The Center is eager to expand the Together for Life toolkits, media, and website and continues to explore ways to reach the very small number of Utahns who still do not use a seat belt. We want everyone to always use their seat belt and feel comfortable and confident asking others to do the same, so that we all can be together for life!