Can a nongovernmental organization influence or determine seat belt use in a nation? The problems that implementing such a simple, yet effective, measure for traffic safety may trigger in a developing country are impossible to imagine. Just having the right laws is not enough: A great effort is necessary to create awareness and inform the population, but the governmental authorities in Argentina are not doing this, nor do they show any interest in it. In most of the developing countries, the situation is similar. Starting from a diagnosis of seat belt use by means of systematic observations, a program of awareness and massive education was developed for national radio and TV about the advantages of seat belt use. The first stage of this program was launched at the end of 1991, and it continues to this day. Articles in newspapers and communications and requests on the same subject sent to public officials also have helped mobilize public opinion on seat belt use. After 10 years of systematic and continued work by a nongovernmental organization, seat belt use is now part of the government’s agenda and there is a high rate of “almost voluntary” seat belt use. The voluntary seat belt use in the city of Buenos Aires has reached 26.9%, and in national highways 58.9%. The roads that have been traveled in Argentina (documented with follow-up statistics) may be useful as guidelines for other countries that are starting this process, and may help to shorten times, avoid pitfalls, and save lives since it is estimated that 1,100 more lives could be saved every year in Argentina when seat belts become the norm.
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ALBERTO J. SILVEIRA
Traffic Injury Prevention
Latin America and Caribbean (LAC)