Seatbelt use in Saudi Arabia remains low

A survey reveals that young adults, women and people suffering from depression and anxiety are less likely to buckle up

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A Saudi survey reports that around 40% of participants regularly fasten their seatbelt when in a car, and the compliance rate is correlated with age, gender, mental health and other habits. These findings can support the Kingdom’s efforts to improve traffic safety. 

Seatbelt usage is an effective method to reduce road injuries and fatalities. However, the Saudi population has a lower level of seatbelt compliance and a higher rate of fatal  road traffic crashes (RTCs) than other developed countries. In the United States, 2% of RTCs are fatal, but in Saudi Arabia the proportion is 23% according to one study and 15% according to a more recent study. Nevertheless, those high estimations can reflect the number of losses in the workforce, hospital resources, and human capital leading to have a significant burden on the Saudi population, economy, and public health.

Wearing seatbelts became compulsory for drivers and front-seat passengers in 2000 and has been enforced with surveillance cameras since 2018. 

In this study, KAIMRC researchers surveyed 5,790 adults affiliated with the Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs in Riyadh. The survey was conducted between 2017 and 2019, and the data are part of the Saudi National Biobank, an on- going project that evaluates the health behaviours of the Saudi population. 

The analysis showed a higher compliance rate among older individuals. Respondents between 26 and 45 of age were nearly 50% more likely to fasten their seatbelts than those who were 18-25 years old. Interviewees who reported depression and anxiety were 26% less likely to wear seatbelts than those who did not report a mood disorder.

Women were 86% less likely to fasten their seatbelt than men. However, many women sit in the rear of the car, where the use of the seatbelt is not compulsory in KSA. Seatbelt compliance among Saudi women who have obtained their driving licenses since 2018 needs further studies. 

Furthermore, cancer patients were twice as likely to buckle up as those without cancer, and people who brush their teeth more than twice a day were also in the habit of fastening their seat belts. The researchers say that this demonstrates that people who follow a healthy lifestyle may tend to adopt safe habits in the car as well. 

“This study highlights the need for further investment in public health programmes that target specific groups and focus on seatbelt compliance for injury prevention,” says public health researcher, Suliman Alghnam of KAIMRC and KSAU-HS. “A significant commitment is required to curb road deaths as KSA works to reduce the RTCs mortality rate by 7% annually in alignment with the Saudi Vision 2030.”

References

  1. Alghnam, S. et al. Predictors of seatbelt use among Saudi adults: results from the National Biobank Project. Frontiers in Public Health 8 (2020). | article

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