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8 Things You Need to Know about Seat Belt Enforcement and Safety

Posted in Car Accident on June 13, 2018

No matter how short your drive will be or how familiar you are with the route, there’s a chance you’ll be involved in an auto accident every time you get behind the wheel of your vehicle.

Modern cars, trucks, and SUVs are equipped with a bevy of safety features, including advanced airbags, stability and traction control systems, and accident warning and crash avoidance systems, just to name a few. But no safety feature is as effective at reducing the risk of injuries and death as seat belts.

Seat belts are so important for both drivers and passengers that all states except New Hampshire have laws concerning their usage. In Tennessee, seat belt usage falls under “primary enforcement” laws, which means police officers are allowed to stop drivers and ticket them if they aren’t wearing their seat belts—even if no other traffic violations are occurring.

Tennessee’s seat belt law was passed in 1986, and it applies to all drivers and passengers who are at least 16 years old and who are riding in the front seats of vehicles. First-time violators receive $25 fines, while second and later violations are $50.

Enforcement campaigns are working even today, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that Tennessee’s seat belt usage increased by 2.7 percent from 2015 to 2016, and now 88.9 percent of drivers and passengers in the Volunteer State report wearing their seat belts.

Get the Facts about Seat Belts

Safe driving is a commitment and a lifestyle choice. It requires being a cautious and attentive driver and avoiding behaviors that can increase your risk of an accident, including driving while distracted, driving while impaired, and driving while drowsy.

But even the safest drivers are likely to be involved in at least one or two accidents during their lives. In fact, studies show that most drivers are involved in crashes every 15 to 20 years. Because many crashes occur due to unforeseeable events, it’s important to protect yourself as best you can—and that starts with wearing your seat belt.

Keep these eight seat belt-related facts in mind the next time you drive or ride in someone else’s vehicle as a passenger:

  • Click It or Ticket Is a national campaign.

Buckling up isn’t just a concern for state and local law enforcement officers. It’s a national concern with enforcement efforts reaching all the way to the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). In fact, the “Click It or Ticket” campaign is sponsored by the NHTSA, and it’s designed to increase seat belt usage and prevent auto accident-related fatalities. 2018’s Click It or Ticket campaign began on May 21 and will continue through June 3, and more than 10,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide will participate.

  • 10,428 unbuckled vehicle occupants were killed in accidents in 2016.

The DOT reports that 37,461 people were killed in car crashes on U.S. roadways in 2016—an increase of 5.6 percent over 2015. A little under one-third of those victims weren’t buckled up at the time of the crashes. Studies show that if all passenger vehicle occupants had been wearing their seat belts at the time of the accidents, an additional 2,456 lives could have been saved. In addition, the number of unrestrained deaths increased by 4.6 percent compared to 2015. Finally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that seat belts saved around 14,000 lives in 2015 alone.

  • Young males between the ages of 18 and 34 are the most at-risk for unbuckled fatalities.

In 2016, 44 percent of people who were killed in car accidents while driving or riding without seat belts were men between the ages of 18 and 34. Other studies found that young men who live in rural areas are the least likely of all to wear their seat belts. However, it’s important for drivers of all ages to remember that crashes can occur anywhere and at any time. In fact, single-vehicle accidents on rural or otherwise low-traffic roads pose some of the highest threats out of all crash types for both drivers and passengers.

  • Seat belt usage is increasing, but not fast enough.

In 1981, only 11 percent of drivers used their seat belts, according to the CDC. By 2010, that number had increased to around 85 percent nationwide. However, around one in seven people still don’t buckle up whether they’re driving their vehicles or riding as passengers. That’s why both national and local law enforcement campaigns aren’t just annual events—they’re ongoing with both police officers and state troopers always being on the lookout for drivers who aren’t buckled up.

  • Drivers and passengers who aren’t buckled up are at risk of ejections.

Auto accidents can pose serious injury risks for drivers and passengers, including broken bones, deep cuts, and crushing injuries. But no type of trauma is as devastating or life-threatening as ejections. More than 75 percent of people who are ejected from vehicles during accidents die from their injuries. People who aren’t buckled up during accidents are 30 times more likely to be ejected. Taking a few seconds to buckle up makes it extremely unlikely for a driver or passenger to be ejected, and the chance is virtually zero if the seat belt is undamaged and functioning properly.

  • Air bags aren’t replacements for seat belts.

The addition of front and side air bags has made vehicles safer during accidents, as air bags are designed to cushion the impact that drivers and passengers experience when their vehicles are involved in crashes. But air bags are designed to work in conjunction with seat belts—not independently of them. When vehicle occupants aren’t buckled up, they can be thrown around violently inside their vehicles during accidents, and they may slam into parts of their vehicles that aren’t protected by air bags. That means air bags are only at their most effective when occupants are buckled up and are restrained in the areas where the air bags are designed to deploy.

  • Children are more likely to buckle up when their parents use their seat belts.

If you’re worried about your children’s safety when they start driving, it’s important to remember that the examples you set now can carry over when they’re driving without your supervision. If you wear your seat belt every time you get behind the wheel of your vehicle, your kids will be more likely to buckle up in their teens and beyond. The earlier you get your children used to wearing their seat belts, the better, as habits ingrained early in life are more likely to stick with children as they age and have families of their own.

  • Seat belts should fit and be worn properly to be most effective.

Although seat belts are designed to accommodate a wide range of body types, they’re not always one size fits all. When you buckle up, make sure your seat belt fits snugly across your pelvis (lap belt) and rib cage (shoulder belt). Never put the shoulder belt behind your back or under an arm. Seat belt extenders are available for vehicles with belts that are too tight or small. In addition, older vehicles with lap-only belts can be fitted with new lap/shoulder-belt combos, which studies prove are much safer than previous generations of seat belts.

Hurt in a Crash? Matt Hardin Law is Here to Help.

Seat belts are highly effective at reducing the risk of injuries during accidents, but they can’t always prevent them. If you or someone you love was hurt in a car accident, we want to speak with you. You and your loved ones may be eligible for filing a claim for compensation for accident-related expenses, including medical bills and lost wages.

Having an experienced Nashville auto accident lawyer on your side can make all the difference for your claim. In addition to collecting evidence that proves you weren’t at fault, we’ll also negotiate with the insurance company to protect you from lowball settlement offers.

Get in touch with us today to find out how we can put our three decades of experience to work for your family. Just dial (615) 200-1111 or fill out a free online form.