Many drivers and passengers downplay the importance of seat belts, but they are crucial in preventing injuries during car accidents. George Cayley invented the seat belt in the 19th century. The main objective of the belt was to secure a person to a moving object. Seat belts were initially used by painters and fireman for additional protection. In 1984, Congress passed a law requiring drivers to wear a seat belt. Currently, every state has some legislation that makes it an offense not to wear a seat belt. The penalties for not wearing a seat belt vary from state to state. Although they may seem a nuisance, the importance of seat belts cannot be understated.

Seat Belts Help Prevent Car Accident Fatalities

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that seat belts lower the risk of death from vehicle accidents by up to 50%. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration further confirms this in a report stating that over 15,000 lives are saved annually in the U.S. because passengers and drivers were wearing seat belts during a crash. According to a CDC report, drivers and passengers who fail to wear seat belts are at a higher risk of being thrown out of the car during a crash than those who wear seat belts. A large percentage of passengers thrown out of a vehicle in an accident sustain fatal injuries.

The 5-Way Protection of seat belts

As a car accident lawyer Coeur d’Alene ID trusts will tell you, seat belts are designed to offer protection in five different ways:

  • Seat belts keep vehicle occupants inside: Many people think that it is better for a person to be thrown clear from an accident than to remain inside the vehicle. That is not correct. Victims thrown from the car during an accident are four times more likely to be killed than those who are inside the vehicle.
  • Seat belts for backseat passengers protect the driver and front seat passenger: When passengers in the backseat wear seat belts, they not only protect themselves from serious injuries, but they also protect the driver and front seat passengers. Studies have shown that back seat passengers can exert a strong force on the front seats that can cause fatal injuries to those seated in the front.
  • Seat belts restrain the strong parts of your body:Restraints contact the strongest parts of the body. Seat belts are designed to be strapped around your hips and shoulders, the strongest parts of your body.
  • They spread out the force from a collision:Seat belts spread the force of a crash over a greater area of your body. You are less likely to sustain serious injuries when the stress or impact of an accident is spread over a wide area, than when it is concentrated on one area.
  • Seat belts slow down your body: During a motor vehicle crash, the vehicle is impacted in two ways: the actual collision, and the collision involving the car occupants, which throws them out of the vehicle or causes their bodies to strike a portion of the interior of the car. When your vehicle stops, the passengers are traveling at an equal speed, and the impact resulting from not wearing a seat belt can be fatal. Serious injuries occur when there is an instant change in speed. Seat belts extend the time it takes for a person’s body to slow down in an accident.

Seat Belt Laws

The two main types of seat belt enforcement laws are primary and secondary. Primary enforcement laws apply when a police officer stops a vehicle if the driver or passengers are not wearing seat belts. Secondary enforcement laws apply when a police officer issues a ticket to a driver for not wearing a seat belt, and for committing another traffic offense. A report by the CDC shows that the use of seat belts is 9% higher in jurisdictions that use primary enforcement laws. Currently, 31 states use primary enforcement laws.