Starting from August 2009 the obligation to wear the seat belts is strictly enforced by the traffic police. Lo and behold: a pattern of behavior that seemed to be deeply rooted in stereotypes (seatbelts are for rookies, cowards and women) has been changed almost overnight since then. But is this change sustainable, should the control by the traffic police be relaxed?
A change in a formal institution is always an exciting opportunity for a scholar to explore the influence of this change. The enforcement of the seat belt rule was cleverly explored by CRRC Fellow Tigran Matosyan to study it effect both on motives and behavior of Armenian drivers with a help of a range of research tools, such as surveys, focus groups and observations.
On April 16, 2010, Tigran presented the main findings of his research. He hypothesized two reasons why so few people wore seatbelts prior to the reform: 1) lack of knowledge of usefulness of the belts and a set of stereotypes preventing their use. His research provides some evidence to support the hypothesis and suggests that the enforced change of rules does not address any of these impediments, making the long-term sustainability of the new behavior questionable.
The research paper in English is available for download here (214 KB, PDF).