You Can’t Afford to Take a Holiday from Seat Belt Safety
Seat Belts: Saving Lives Since 1968
We’ve come a long way when it comes to seat belt safety. In fact, every U.S. state except New Hampshire now mandates seat belt use by law. With the holidays upon us, it’s no time to get careless, though—and there’s still room for improvement when it comes to seat belt use.
Despite continued advancements in automotive safety, motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of death in the United States, especially among those between the ages of 1 and 54, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The effectiveness of seat belts in reducing the risk of death and serious injury is beyond debate at this point: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that seat belts reduce crash-related injuries and deaths by about half, and the NHTSA also estimates that seat belts saved the lives of 12,584 people in 2013 and more than 62,000 lives in the preceding five-year period.
Thankfully, the advent and enforcement of widespread mandatory seat belt laws coupled with public education campaigns has led to huge improvements in the rates of seat belt use. In 2014, the observed seat belt use rate among front-seat occupants was 87 percent, about 6 times the rate recorded in 1983. That’s an impressive achievement when you consider the stunning fact that seat belts weren’t even required in motor vehicles by the federal government until 1968. However, the remaining 13 percent gap means that millions of adults still risk their lives and limbs on a regular basis by not wearing a seat belt.
Continuing Problems with Seat Belt Use
So who’s still failing to buckle up? According to the CDC, adults between the ages of 18 and 34 are less likely to wear a seat belt than those age 35 or older, and men are 10 percent less likely to wear a seat belt than women. The gender disparity in seat belt use matches up with other evidence in Alaska, too: between 2003 and 2012, 506 motor vehicle occupants were killed in Alaska, and the rate of death for men was twice as high as the rate for women.
The CDC also stated in a 2012 report that rear-seat motor vehicle passengers are less likely to wear a seat belt than front-seat passengers and that this makes them more likely to injure themselves and other passengers in a crash. Any sense of safety that rear-seat passengers feel in going without a belt is false, though. Research shows that seat belt use in rear-seat passengers reduces the risk of fatal injury by about half—the same as for front-seat occupants.
Seat Belts 101
For seat belts to do their job, you need to make sure you’re wearing them correctly. A properly fitted shoulder belt should lie snugly across the center of the chest and shoulder (not on the neck or face), and the lap belt should lie snugly across the upper thighs or low on the hips (not on the belly), according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Although lap-only belts provide better safety than using no restraint at all, they’re less effective than lap-and-shoulder belts, especially in frontal crashes. The IIHS also adds that it’s critical for children who have outgrown forward-facing child restraints to use a belt-positioning booster to achieve a proper seat belt fit depending on their age and size.
While the holidays for most people conjure up warm dreams of snow, shopping, and traveling to see loved ones, all of those come with the inherent dangers of being on the road in questionable weather, so the holidays are the absolute worst time to slack on seat belt safety. Remember to buckle up properly, and if you’re in the front seat, turn around and make sure that your rear-seat riders get their act together too.
And if the worst should happen and you are injured in a collision because of someone else’s negligence, you need to consult with an attorney right away. The Law Office of William D. Cook offers free consultations so you can get expert legal advice about what your best course of action is. Call our offices today at (907) 694-2000 or fill out our convenient online form to schedule your consultation.
Buckle up: Restraint use in Alaska. (2014, December). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/pdf/seatbelts/restraint_use_in_ak.pdf
Q&As: Safety belts. (2015, July). Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute. Retrieved from http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/safety-belts/qanda
Seat belts: Get the facts. (2014, October 7). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/seatbelts/facts.html