Past research in safety belt use has primarily focused on describing the relationship between drivers' demographic characteristics and safety belt use. This study compared the impact of situational factors (the direction of collision, the type of road, and the presence of an airbag system), demographic factors, and constructs (criteria) elicited from Subjects regarding safety belt use. Based on the results obtained, a conceptual model was developed. The model indicated that drivers' decision-making process when judging the level of accident risk and usefulness of safety belts differs from those that determine actual behavior. Perceived risk was related to road type, perceived consequences of an accident, perceived usefulness of safety belts, self responsibility, the time available for the driver to warn the other driver, dangerous behavior, and gender. These variables showed that people were able to rationally judge the risk. Despite the fact that people judge behavior in what appeared to be a rational manner, risk perception was not a good predictor of belt use. Belt use was mainly influenced by individual factors such as gender, grade point average (GPA), and age. Other factors impacting safety belt use included the perceived frequency of an accident and the S.D. of perceived usefulness of safety belts. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.