We are all aware of the Massachusetts statute that requires everyone in a passenger motor vehicle to wear a seat belt. And we are all aware of the (minimal) civil penalties. Further, most folks are aware that Massachusetts’ seat belt law is “secondary,” meaning that a police officer cannot pull a driver over for apparent failure to wear a seat belt. A police officer can only give a ticket to someone neglecting to wear a seat belt if he or she was pulled over for some other “primary” reason.
Seatbelts Save Lives in Motor Vehicle Accidents
What some folks seem to be unaware of is that seatbelts save lives. Daily. In 2012, for example, more than 34,000 people died as a result of injuries they sustained in motor vehicle collisions. 49% were not wearing a seatbelt. This is from the National Highway Safety Administration. While the number is high – too high – it is also an increase from the previous year. Thus, notwithstanding drivers’ education, public service announcements, new seat belt laws, safety enhancements in vehicles, and more air bags, we are heading in the wrong direction.
NHSA statistics indicate that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in many age groups, including teenagers. They indicate that the financial loss exceeds $99 billion per year.
In a Massachusetts study undertaken by researchers at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the University of Missouri, the relationship between tickets and fatalities were studied. Since Massachusetts has the “secondary” ticket law, this was a good “natural experiment” because a police officer has to observe the violation after the incident. The findings were that the Click It or Ticket (CIOT) law reduced fatalities by 11%. Folks can read the study, but the bottom line is that when more people used seat belts, lives are saved. The same is true when folks driver slower, drive without distractions, and, of course, don’t drive while under the influence.
Seatbelts and Highways
What percentage of seat belt fatalities occur on highways? 94%. Why? Cars and other vehicles are going faster and an impact to the vehicle has a more significant impact on the occupant of the vehicle. Further, the speed limit, on average, is going up!
This statistic is even more troubling when you factor in the news that the number of per capita vehicle miles was reduced, and, in fact, has been moving in the opposite direction of the death rate for about a decade, according to the NHSA.
Seatbelts and Distractions
Of course, as we all know, distracted drivers get in more accidents than non-distracted ones. There are perhaps more distractions these days – with cell phones, iPods, iPads, navigation devices, and other such electronics in vehicles. While texting and driving is illegal, it happens. Not wearing a seat belt adds to the likelihood that you will be more seriously injured if there is an impact.
Experienced Motor Vehicle Lawyer
If you or a loved one were injured in a motor vehicle accident as a result of driver negligence, call an experienced car accident lawyer. Attorney Neil Burns has been representing victims of motor vehicle accidents since 1985. He has the experience. He is aggressive. His representation is effective. Call for a free consultation. 617-227-7423.