Law Offices of Paul K. Schrier, PLLC

Does giving tickets for not wearing seat belts save lives?

You have probably heard about motor vehicle accidents in which the driver or a passenger flew out of the vehicle or bounced around inside of it during the impact and either died or suffered severe injuries. The police and the media are quick to point out that if that person had been wearing a seat belt, he or she might have walked away unscathed.

The fact that there is truth in that statement often makes the courts consider seat belt use when determining liability in auto accidents. After all, the research shows that your seat belt can save your life. Yes, wearing your seat belt is important, and it could very well save your life, but that does not mean that you bear all of the responsibility for your injuries if you are the victim of an accident.

Do primary enforcement efforts work?

Here in Florida, a police officer can pull you over and issue a ticket if he or she sees you not wearing a seat belt. Officials call this primary enforcement because it does not rely on the officer initiating a traffic stop for some other potential infraction first.

Some states consider a ticket for not wearing a seat belt to be secondary enforcement. This begs the question: Does making seat belt use a primary enforcement law makes a difference in the number of lives saved. A study published this year endeavored to answer this question. The researchers gathered data from states that went from secondary enforcement to primary enforcement when it comes to seat belt use.

Researchers discovered that the difference was negligible. The authors of the study, Sam Harper and Erin C. Strumpf of McGill University, concluded that other factors may have already lowered the number of auto accident fatalities. For instance, new safety features in vehicles, roundabouts and speed cameras may play a role in the reduction in deaths. They also speculated that economic conditions have reduced the amount of recreational driving across the country.

The bottom line

Whether you wore your seat belt at the time of an accident does not relieve the responsible party or parties of their legal liability. If you suffered injuries due to the negligence of someone else, you may still pursue compensation through the filing of a personal injury claim. You would more than likely benefit from understanding your rights and legal options before taking that step.

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