Last week the Texas Supreme Court reversed a long-standing prohibition and ruled that evidence that a plaintiff did not wear his seat belt can be admitted at trial. In Nabors Wells Services, Ltd. v. Romero, a truck being driven by an employee of Nabors was passing a Chevy Suburban when it hit the side of the SUV. The SUV spun out of control and crashed, injuring seven people and killing one of the occupants. Clearly, the Nabors truck was at fault.
Conflicting evidence suggested that only a few of the passengers may have been wearing their seat belts. The trial court and El Paso appellate court refused to allow the testimony and the large verdict had been appealed to the Supreme Court.
Christopher McIntire, pictured here, died in a rollover accident Tuesday on a rural road south of DFW. He was not wearing his seat belt.
Seat Belts Save Lives
The AAA calls wearing a seat belt “the single most effective means of reducing the risk of death in a crash” and estimates that seat belts saved almost 300,000 lives since 1975. Research found that seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat occupants in light trucks by 60 percent and reduced moderate to critical injuries by 65 percent.
Why Don’t People Wear Seat Belts?
Texas consistently has a high rate of seat belt use. This may be due to Texas’s seat belt laws, Known as primary enforcement, police officers are authorized to stop and ticket a driver solely for not wearing a seat belt, even if she or he has not violated any other traffic ordinance. The AAA asserts that seat belt use rate is 12 percent higher in states that have primary enforcement laws on the books than those that don’t.
Here are the top five (stupid) excuses people make for not buckling up, according to AAA:
- I am driving a short distance
- I forgot
- I am in a hurry
- The seat belt is uncomfortable
- I am driving in light traffic
Buckling up is one of the simplest and most effective means of protecting your life. Always use your seat belt.