Normative misperceptions of peer seatbelt use among high school students and their relationship to personal seatbelt use


Objectives: This research examined gender-specific perceptions of peer seat belt use norms among high school students and their relationship with one’s own seat belt use. We expected that students would underestimate the seat belt use of their peers and that these perceptions would be positively associated with their own seat belt use. Methods: High school students from 4 schools (N = 3348; 52% male) completed measures assessing perceived seat belt use and personal seat belt use. Results: Findings demonstrated that students perceived that others engaged in less seat belt use than they do and that perceived norms were positively associated with one’s own seat belt use. Conclusions: Peer influences are a strong predictor of behavior, especially among adolescents. Ironically, adolescents’ behaviors are often influenced by inaccurate perceptions of their peers. This research establishes the presence of a misperception related to seat belt use and suggests that misperception is associated with own behaviors. This research provides a foundation for social norms–based interventions designed to increase seat belt use by correcting normative misperceptions among adolescents.



Seat belt use, Social norms, Descriptive norms, Gender


Copyright 2014 Traffic Injury Prevention. This is a post-print version of a published paper that is available at: Recommended citation: Litt, Dana M., Melissa A. Lewis, Jeffrey W. Linkenbach, Gary Lande, and Clayton Neighbors. "Normative Misperceptions of Peer Seat Belt Use Among High School Students and their Relationship to Personal Seat Belt Use." Traffic Injury Prevention 15, no. 7 (2014): 748-752. doi: 10.1080/15389588.2013.868892. This item has been deposited in accordance with publisher copyright and licensing terms and with the author’s permission.