Tribal Motor Vehicle Injury Prevention Programs


An Evidence-Based Practice


Several factors have been documented that place American Indian/Alaska Natives at increased risk for motor vehicle crashes (MVCs), including low rates of seat belt use and child safety seat use and a high prevalence of alcohol-impaired driving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded projects within four American Indian/Alaska Native tribes during 2004-2009 to tailor, implement, and evaluate evidence-based road safety interventions as outlined in the CDC's Guide to Community Preventive Services.

The Tohono O-odham Nation (TON), located in the southwestern corner of Arizona, focused a comprehensive media campaign to increase compliance with a recently passed seat belt law and collaborated with tribal police to enhance enforcement of the seat belt law as well as reduce alcohol-impaired driving. The Ho-Chunk Nation (HCN) of Wisconsin partnered with local county police departments to educate and train police officers to increase enforcement of seat belt and child safety seat laws, distributed education and child safety seats, and educated the community through local events and crash simulations. The White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT) and San Carlos Apache Tribe (SCAT), both located in eastern Arizona, focused on increasing seat belt use and decreasing alcohol-impaired driving through media campaigns, sobriety checkpoints, and enhanced police enforcement of safety laws.

Goal / Mission

The goal of tribal motor vehicle injury prevention programs is to reduce disparities in rates of motor vehicle-related injuries and deaths.


Projects to increase motor vehicle safety on tribal reservations increased seat belt use among drivers, increased use of child safety seats, and decreased motor vehicle crashes.

Results / Accomplishments

During the five-year projects, the increase in observed driver use of seat belts ranged from 38% to 315% among the four tribal reservations. Observed use of child safety seats increased 45% on the TON reservation and 85% on the HCN reservation. A decrease in crashes with injuries was documented on the TON reservation (36% decrease), as was as a decrease in motor vehicle crashes on the SCAT reservation (29% decrease). Enhanced enforcement resulted in 388 DUI arrests on the TON reservation and 151 citations for seat belt nonuse on the HCN reservation. A cost-benefit analysis of the SCAT program found a savings of $2,710,000 during the project period. Two motor vehicle safety resolutions were passed on the SCAT reservation which did not require CDC funding: one lowered the legal BAC limit from 0.10% to 0.08%, and a second allowed officers to pull over a driver and issue a citation solely because of an unbuckled occupant.

About this Promising Practice

Primary Contact
Bethany A. West
Public Safety / Transportation Safety
Health / Prevention & Safety
Government & Politics / Programs, Policies, & Laws
The Tohono O'odham Nation, the Ho-Chunk Nation, the White Mountain Apache Tribe, and the San Carlos Apache Tribe
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Date of publication
Date of implementation
Arizona and Wisconsin
For more details
Target Audience
Racial/Ethnic Minorities
Additional Audience
American Indian

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