Research-informed evidence and support for road safety legislation: Findings from a national survey

Katherine Clegg Smith, Beata Debinski, Keshia Pollack, Jon Vernick, Stephen Bowman, Alicia Samuels, Andrea Gielen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Public opinion is influential in the policymaking process, making it important to understand the factors that influence popular support or opposition to public health policies. Researchers and policymakers tend to agree that scientific evidence can inform decision-making, but this influence has not been explored sufficiently, especially in the area of injury prevention. This paper considers the potential for the communication of evidence-based research and public health data to influence opinion about legislation that could reduce road-related injury. We conducted a nationally-representative online survey to assess public attitudes toward four road-safety laws; ignition interlock, school zone red-light cameras, restrictions on infotainment systems, and children's bicycle helmets. For each law, we assessed initial support and then provided a research-informed statistic on either the injury risk posed or the law's efficacy reducing risk and re-examined the law's support or opposition. The survey was completed by 2397 U.S. adults. Each law was initially supported by a majority of respondents, with greatest support for ignition interlock (74.4%) and children's bicycle helmets (74.8%). Exposure to research-informed statements increased legislative support for 20-30% of respondents. Paired analyses demonstrate significant increases toward supportive opinions when comparing responses to the initial and research-informed statements. The study demonstrates considerable public support for evidence-based road-related laws. Overall support was augmented by exposure to research data. Injury prevention practitioners can capitalize on this support in efforts to build support for legislation that would prevent injury. Researchers should be encouraged to expand their efforts to share research results with both the public and policymakers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-115
Number of pages7
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
StatePublished - Dec 2014


  • Injury
  • Legislation
  • Policy
  • Public opinion
  • Research evidence
  • Survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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