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How Much of a Difference Do Seat Belts Make?

We have discussed with our readers many times the idea that all drivers must uphold their legal responsibility to keep others safe on the road through safe driving. Where a driver is reckless and is the cause of injury to others, that driver can be held accountable for negligence through a personal injury lawsuit. However, even when negligent drivers cannot be stopped, it is important that we all know what we can best do to protect ourselves and our loved ones from suffering serious personal injuries in an accident.

It has been shown that seat belt use is the most effective way to protect ourselves from others’ negligence and potential injuries of motor vehicle accidents. The National Safety Council has gathered and presented some noteworthy statistics surrounding seat belts. For one, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has shown that seat belts are the most effective traffic safety devices for preventing death and injuries. In fact, they are so effective that they can reduce the risk of injuries from a collision by 50 percent. Additionally, just between the years 2004 to 2008, seat belts saved approximately 75,000 lives. Furthermore, of those that died from traffic accidents in passenger vehicles in 2007, 42 percent of victims were not wearing seat belts.

One study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2009 indicated that if seat belt use was at 90 percent in every state, 1600 lives could be saved, and 22,000 injuries could be prevented. Right now, seat belt use is at an average of 88 percent nationally. There are many groups less likely to wear belts, including teens and truck drivers.

Most states have seat belt laws, including Illinois. Also according to the National Safety Council, forty-nine of our states, plus the District of Columbia, have mandatory seat belt laws. The only state that does not is New Hampshire. According to Insurance Institute For Highway Safety, Illinois has had seat belt laws since January of 1988, and the law has been a “primary enforcement” law since 2003. According to The Community Guide, being a primary enforcement law, this means that a police officer may pull over a driver solely for the reason of not wearing a seat belt, whereas, under a secondary law, a driver could be ticketed for not wearing a seat belt only if first pulled over for another primary reason, like speeding or failing to stop at a light. In Illinois, each driver and front seat passenger must wear a properly adjusted and fastened seat belt, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Most of us learned from a very early age that wearing a seat belt is important for our safety because we cannot always prevent or predict the negligent and reckless driving of others. Even when this is true, we can defend ourselves from harm’s way by always wearing our seat belts. In accidents that otherwise would have been fatal, seat belts can lessen the blow to minor injuries. Our attorneys care about our Illinois community, and while we are happy to see seat belt use increase, we too promote the national average to be much higher so that all people can be protected against serious injuries and death.