Seat Belt Use Increased Last Year — But Why Isn’t Rate 100%?

seat belt -- full photo of woman buckling up

Countless Lives Saved in 2015 

Every day, the news reports another story about a tragic car wreck caused by texting while driving, drunk driving, running a light, speeding or other dangerous conduct. 

Driving home last night, police were directing traffic and two drivers were standing next to their smashed up vehicles. We take it for granted and just hope it doesn’t happen to us.

So the fact that more vehicle occupants are buckling up is encouraging to a personal injury lawyer – or to any one.

The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration’s new report detailing seat belt use is good news.

Use of seat belts increased from 88 percent in 2014 to 90 percent in 2015. For some reason, seat belt use by occupants of pick-up trucks has lagged behind, but is headed in the right direction, increasing from 77 percent in 2014 to 80 percent in 2015.

You have to wonder why aren’t these numbers 100%, right? Why wouldn’t you take a second or two to protect your life?

It is often overlooked that 32,675 people died in car crashes in 2014. 

But an occupant who is restrained during an accident increases chances of survival by 50 percent. The two seconds it takes to buckle up has such a great return on investment, it’s hard to believe anybody would not do it.

A Positive Trend

The increase in seat belt use is a positive trend that will hopefully continue. Seat belt use has increased steadily for the past 15 years from 70.7 percent in 2000 to 90.3 percent in 2015. 

The numbers show a promising correlation between seat belt use and crash survival. Car crash fatalities of unrestrained occupants declined during the same period from 51.6 percent to 40.3 percent. 

Texas Seat Belt Law Protects Lives

State-by-state statistics for 2015 have not yet been published. But, if the past years are any indication, Texas will show stellar results. In 2014, 91 percent of Texans buckled up, placing the state in one of the top ranked states for seat belt use. 

One reason for such good results is that Texas has a primary seat belt law. An officer can ticket a driver or passenger for not wearing a seat belt, even if the driver has committed no other traffic infraction.

According to the NHTSA study, states with primary enforcement laws reported 91.2 percent seat belt use compared to states in which drivers cannot be stopped just for not wearing a seat belt, which reported 78.6 percent use of seat belts.

You Will Be Held Liable for Not Wearing Your Seat Belt in a Civil Court

If better chance of survival does not convince you to buckle up, a recent Texas Supreme Court ruling might. An at-fault driver can now present evidence that you contributed to your own injuries because you were unrestrained during the crash. This means you could be held liable for the portion of damages attributed to your failure to buckle up, even if the other driver was 100 percent responsible for causing the accident to begin with.

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