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Seat belt use correlates strongly with each state’s laws and enforcement procedures. How states apply seat belt laws falls into two general categories: primary enforcement and secondary enforcement.
Primary seat belt laws allow an officer to ticket a driver or passenger in any vehicle for not wearing a seat belt, whether or not they’ve committed another infraction. Secondary laws, by contrast, only allow a no-seat belt ticket if another traffic infraction has occurred.
Jurisdictions with stronger seat belt enforcement laws continue to produce higher use rates than those with weaker laws.
Survival rates of wearing or not wearing a seat belt are dramatically different. In fact, statistics show that more than 47% of the 22,215 passengers who died in 2019 traffic crashes weren’t wearing a seat belt. Also, 55% of passengers killed at night weren’t restrained.
Airbags are clearly no substitute for wearing a seat belt. Airbags are designed to work with seat belts, not as a replacement. Wearing a seat belt keeps occupants from moving at the same speed as the vehicle they’re in until they either stop or crash. Without that restraint, they’ll collide with the object in front of them at that speed. Even if that object is an airbag, it can cause serious injury.
Even if a crash isn’t fatal, a seat belt helps prevent injury by spreading the force of impact across the strongest bones of the body. The role of force is why it’s essential to wear a seat belt properly; failure to do so can distribute the force of a crash to sensitive regions instead. That’s what happened to the woman in this study who was wearing the shoulder belt under her armpit when she hit a tree at 30 mph. She suffered multiple injuries to her spleen, liver, colon, and left lower rib as a result.
The consequences of not wearing a seat belt can be severe.
The evidence shows that wearing a seat belt greatly reduces the chance of being killed or seriously hurt in a crash. So why would passengers decline to do so?
Given the potential consequences of not wearing a seat belt if you’re in a serious crash, is it worth the risk?
Can’t seat belts themselves cause injuries? Yes, but seat belt-related injuries are generally far less severe than injuries to those not wearing a seat belt.
Seat belts are a three-point adult harness resting on the shoulder, chest, and abdomen.
Even survivors of a car crash who weren’t wearing a seat belt may be left with serious injuries that could affect the rest of their lives. The outcome could be chronic pain and/or continuing medical bills.
A seat belt can minimize any injury caused by an accident and might even keep you alive. It’s not a matter of opinion; scientific studies and statistics bear it out. No matter how carefully you drive, you can’t control everything on the highway. And you can’t assume “that will never happen to me.” In fact, the opposite is true: