What You Need to Know about Seat Belt Safety

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What You Need to Know about Seat Belt Safety

Any personal injury attorney will tell you that there are two good ways to avoid serious injuries in a motor vehicle accident. The best way is to not be in a motor vehicle accident at all. The second-best way is to know the rules of seat belt safety and to always wear your seat belt.

Unfortunately, millions of people still do not wear them. Here are some statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC):

  • 23,714 drivers and occupants in passenger vehicles died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016.
  • In the United States, auto accidents are a leading cause of death for people between the ages of 1-54.
  • Over half of the fatalities for teenagers and adults under the age of 45 were not buckled up at the time of the crash.
  • In 2016, more than 2.6 million drivers and passengers required a trip to the emergency room after a motor vehicle accident.
  • Young adult drivers and their passengers (18-24) have the highest crash-related non-fatal injury rates of all adult age groups.

Who isn’t wearing a seat belt?

The people who are less likely to adhere to seat belt safety are:

  • Young. Teenagers and young adults (ages 18-24) are less likely to wear seat belts than older folks.
  • Male. Men are less likely to wear seat belts than women.
  • In a pickup truck. In Missouri, seat belt compliance for pickup trucks is 71.1% compared with 83% for passenger cars.
  • Sitting in the back seat. People who are in the back seat of a passenger vehicle are less likely to wear a seat belt than the occupants in the front seat.
  • Live in non-metropolitan areas. The more rural your address, the less likely you are to wear a seat belt.

Primary Enforcement vs. Secondary Enforcement

Seat belt use is lower in states with secondary enforcement seat belt laws or no seat belt laws compared to states with primary enforcement laws.

  • Primary enforcement means that a law enforcement officer can stop a vehicle and issue a citation if the driver or passengers are not wearing their seat belts.
  • Secondary enforcement means that a citation for not wearing a seat belt can only be issued after the officer stops the vehicle or cites the offender for another infraction.

Considerable research has shown that upgrading from a secondary to a primary seat belt law will significantly raise seat belt use rates when combined with education and enforcement.

  • For example, Missouri is a secondary enforcement state and has 87.7% compliance.
  • By contrast, Illinois is a primary enforcement state, and has a seat belt compliance rate of 94.6%.

Wear your seat belts

As personal injury attorneys, we are huge proponents of seat belt safety. We see all too often what happens when somebody is not wearing their seat belt in an accident. It is no exaggeration to say that it can mean the difference between life and death. It can also mean the difference between walking away from an accident, or never walking again.

No safety feature offers adults and older children more protection than seat belts. Although air bags provide some protection on their own, they are not a substitute for seat belts. Air bags plus seat belts provide the greatest protection for adults.

So please — buckle up.

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