• brief motivational intervention;
  • injury prevention;
  • emergency department;
  • safety belt use


Objectives:  Brief motivational interventions have shown promise in reducing harmful behaviors. The authors tested an intervention to increase safety belt use (SBU) among emergency department (ED) patients.

Methods:  From February 2006 to May 2006, the authors conducted a randomized trial of adult ED patients at a teaching hospital in Boston. ED patients were systematically sampled for self-reported SBU. Those with SBU other than “always” were asked to participate. At baseline, participants answered a 9-item series of situational SBU questions, each scored on a 5-point Likert scale. SBU was defined as a continuous variable (9-item average) and as a dichotomous variable (response of “always” across all items). Participants were randomized to an intervention or a control group. The intervention group received a 5- to 7-minute intervention, adapted from classic motivational interviewing techniques, by a trained interventionist. Participants completed a 3-month follow-up phone survey to determine changes from baseline SBU. Continuous and dichotomous SBU were analyzed via analysis of covariance and chi-square testing.

Results:  Of 432 eligible patients, 292 enrolled (mean age 35 years, standard deviation [SD] ±11 years; 61% male). At baseline, the intervention and control groups had similar mean (±SD) SBU scores (2.8 [±1.1] vs. 2.6 [±1.1], p = 0.31) and SBU prevalence (each 0%). At 3 months, 81% completed follow-up. The intervention group had significantly greater improvement in mean (±SD) SBU scores than controls (0.76 [±0.91] vs. 0.34 [±0.88], p < 0.001). Also, SBU prevalence of “always” was higher for the intervention group than controls (14.4% vs. 5.9%, p = 0.03).

Conclusions:  Participants receiving a brief motivational intervention reported higher SBU at follow-up compared to controls. An ED-based intervention may be useful to increase SBU.