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Primary Seat Belt Law in Massachusetts to Reduce Wrongful Death?

Massachusetts averages 319 motor vehicle collisions every day, with one wrongful death from motor vehicle accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 102 Massachusetts residents are saved each year by seat belts.

Thirty three states have “primary seat belt” laws. These laws allow a police officer to pull over a vehicle when the officer sees that occupants are not wearing seat belts. The NHTSA has statistics to show that states with a primary seat belt law have lower fatality rates.

The seat belt law in Massachusetts clearly states that all occupants in a motor vehicle over the age of 16 on public roads must wear a seat belt. There is a nominal fine for not wearing a seat belt. There are exceptions; however, the major drawback to the current seat belt law in Massachusetts is that the police are not allowed to pull over a vehicle because of a perceived violation of the seat belt law. It is not a “primary driving offence.”

Changing Massachusetts Seat Belt Law

The key sponsor of the primary seat belt law in the Massachusetts Senate is Harriette Chandler, of Worcester, a prior opponent. Apparently Walpole State Senator James Timilty, who is on the Public Safety Committee, is changing his position on this law as well. A “civil libertarian” on this issue previously, Senator Timilty now views the safety aspects of this issue differently. He is considering voting for the primary seat belt law.

What are the doctors that actually treat victims of car accidents saying? An emergency room doctor testified before a senate hearing stating that if the primary seat belt law passes, with one vote it would “save more lives than I can in my whole career.”

Arguments Against Primary Seat Belt Laws

What are the arguments against a law allowing police to pull over violators of the seat belt law? There’s Senator Timilty’s perceived notion of this being a civil liberties, or personal rights issue. This issue works well, except that when folks elect to use public roads, and go to public hospitals, they really are not free to avoid the government laws. Second, and perhaps more importantly, there is a legitimate concern that police will be able to use this law for racial profiling. That is, pulling over folks on the grounds that they were not wearing a seat belt, but really for ulterior motivations. A version of the pending legislation would collect data on police stops to get a handle on how the law was actually being enforced.

What Do the Police Say About Seat Belts?

Police and other first responders seem to universally say that failure to use seat belts results in significantly higher injuries. This is especially true with ejection cases: with a seat belt, there are no ejections; without a seatbelt and an accident causes an ejections, there are generally serious injuries and wrongful death from motor vehicle collisions.

Experienced Personal Injury Attorney for Motor Vehicle Accidents

If your loved one suffered an injury or wrongful death as a result of a motor vehicle accident because of a failed use of a seat belt, call Attorney Neil Burns. He has 28 years of experience with wrongful death in motor vehicle cases.