MA is 48th in Seat Belt Use

Car AccidentMassachusetts residents have plenty of things to be proud about in their state. Art, higher education, the Patriots and Red Sox, architecture, American history, Cape Cod and lobster rolls are just some of the delights.  But one glaring fact stands out regarding driver safety about which residents should have concern–the lack of seat belt use.

The national average for seat belt use is 89%.  Massachusetts is at 74%, with only New Hampshire and South Dakota recording lower usage.  The state’s usage used to be hovering at an abysmal 51% in 2002 before the state launched its “Click-It or Ticket” Campaign to increase the rate to where it currently stands.  To encourage more residents to buckle up, the Division of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security renewed the safety program and focused it on males age 18-34, the group found to have the lowest use.

Drivers of pickup trucks and commercial vehicles, driven mainly by males within this age group, are also complicit in failing to strap in.  Researchers surmised that males in this group neglect to use a seat belt because heavy vehicles offer them a measure of protection along with feelings of youthful invulnerability.  The usage rate for pickup drivers is at 54%; for commercial drivers, it is 46%.

Why Seat Belt Use is Low

Nearly everyone agrees that wearing a seat belt not only save lives but prevents catastrophic injuries. But Massachusetts voters felt that forcing them to wear seat belts was an example of government intrusion, despite the overwhelming evidence of their efficacy.  Buckling up is easy and for many people a routine and natural thing to do.  Parents take care to see that their children are properly restrained.  If they want to set a good example, be safe, and obey the law, then they buckle up as well.

Another factor that may explain the low usage is that seat belt violations are secondary violations. This means that an officer cannot stop and cite you for not wearing a seat belt unless you commit some other traffic violation first.  Studies show that seat belt use is highest in those states where seat belt violations are a primary offense.  Experts also contend that if residents’ use increased just 10%, which would still be below the national average, 18 traffic deaths per year would be prevented along with some 650 devastating injuries.

What to Do if Injured

Being in a traffic accident can be extremely traumatic, especially if you or a passenger have suffered a serious injury. What you do in the moments following an accident can not only prevent further or more serious injuries, but also preserve a possible claim for damages.

Here are some steps to follow after an accident:

  1. Check to see what injuries you have and if you can move. If you are bleeding heavily or suffered a severe head injury, stay in the car. Only exit if the car is on fire or someone tells you it is.
  2. If you are not seriously injured, see if your passengers are safe. Ask and observe. Do not move anyone if they have broken limbs or in obvious distress.
  3. If your cell phone is accessible, call 911.
  4. If your injuries are not major, exit the car and sit and wait for police and EMT.
  5. Take photos of the cars involved and of the accident scene.
  6. Wait for police and do not talk to the driver of the other involved vehicle. All required information can be obtained by police. If your injuries are minor, then you can either exchange information or advise the other driver to have the police handle it. Do not discuss how the accident happened with anyone but the police.
  7. Get the names and contact information of witnesses
  8. If you are injured at all, do not refuse medical attention at the scene
  9. Call your insurance agent at the earliest possible opportunity.
  10. See your doctor

Recalling the sequence of events immediately after an accident can be difficult since you may be in mild shock.  If the officer wants your statement, tell him/her what you know and do not speculate or exaggerate regarding speed and distances.  Do not admit fault as you may not have a full understanding of how the accident happened.

Further, contact a personal injury lawyer if you or a loved one in your car sustained injuries to discuss the accident and the possible issues involved.

Damages in a Car Accident

Anyone injured in an accident because of the negligent or wrongful conduct of another person is entitled to compensation for any damages.  Once liability is established, then the compensation you may receive will depend on the nature and extent of your injuries, wage loss, recovery period, time you were unable to engage in normal living activities and if you were permanently injured.

Common damages in a injury claim include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future income loss
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Permanent disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering
  • Spousal loss of consortium

Contact personal injury lawyer Neil Burns if you have a car accident injury claim. He has handled thousands of car accident claims in his over 30-years of practice and can advise and represent you or a loved one regarding the claim process and how to obtain the most compensation for your claim.