The Importance of Seat Belt Use
According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as many as 1,430 people lose their lives in car accidents across the state of Georgia every year. Tragically, some of these losses could have been prevented if one or more of the injured parties had utilized safety restraints. However, even someone who did not use a seat belt and was injured in a crash may still be able to collect compensation for his or her injuries if the crash was the result of someone else’s negligence or recklessness, so if you live in Atlanta and were injured in a car crash, it is critical to speak with an experienced car accident attorney who can help you seek compensation for your medical expenses and other losses.
How They Work
Most drivers know that seat belts can prevent injuries, although not all are aware of how this is accomplished. Essentially, whenever a car comes to a sudden stop, the occupants in the car also come to a stop. Seat belts basically spread the stopping force across specific areas of the body that tend to be less injury prone. Typical seat belts are made up of a lap belt, which rests across the pelvis and a shoulder belt extending across the chest. Both belt sections are tightly secured to the frame of the car. When worn correctly, the belts will spread the majority of the stopping force across the rib cage and pelvis. Furthermore, the belts are designed to extend across a wide section of the body, which keeps the force of the stop from concentrating in a small area and causing serious injury. Seat belts are also made from a type of webbing that is somewhat flexible, which allows the wearer to move slightly forward during impact. This keeps passengers generally safe from the full extent of the impact, while also ensuring that they are held in place.
The front and rear of most cars are referred to as the crumple zone. This is because these parts of the car are manufactured in such a way that they will collapse relatively easily upon impact. As a result, when a car hits an obstacle, it will not come to a complete and abrupt stop. Instead, the front or rear of the car will absorb some of the impact force by flattening. A car’s cabin is much sturdier and so less likely to crumple around the passenger. However, when passengers fail to wear a seat belt they risk being thrown forward into the crumple zone itself instead of being restrained and kept within the confines of the cabin.
Seat Belt Laws
Georgia, like the majority of states, has a series of primary seat belt laws, which means that police officers can stop vehicles and issue citations if they see that someone is not wearing a seat belt. These laws were put in place to help encourage residents to wear seat belts and have no bearing on whether or not an injured party can collect compensation for injuries sustained in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligent or reckless behavior.
Seat Belt Use
Over the last decade, the NHTSA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other similar agencies have provided compelling evidence that using a seat belt can reduce accident-related injuries and fatalities by as much as 50 percent. In fact, the NHTSA estimates that seat belts save around 13,000 lives every year and that thousands more lives could have been saved if deceased persons had worn seat belts.
Seat belts have proven especially helpful in preventing occupants from being thrown from their vehicles. In fact, the CDC estimates that individuals who do not wear seat belts are 30 times more likely to be ejected from the car during a crash. This can be especially deadly as these individuals have a 75 percent chance of sustaining fatal injuries.
Although wearing seat belts can be irksome, wearing them can make the difference between life and death for some accident victims. The CDC recommends using specific strategies to promote seat belt use amongst children, including:
- Carefully explaining the importance of seat belt use to children starting at a young age;
- Setting a good example by using a seat belt on every trip, even if it is just around the corner;
- Ensuring that all children are buckled into a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt, depending on their age, height, and weight;
- Making sure that all children under the age of 12 years old are properly buckled into the back seat;
- Buckling children in the middle back seat when possible; and
- Refraining from placing a rear-facing car seat in the front seat.
Although children benefit from wearing seat belts, it is also important for adults to utilize these safety restraints when operating or riding in a vehicle. To this end, it can be helpful to require all passengers to fasten their seat belts before beginning a trip.
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In some rare cases, seat belts contribute to or cause painful injuries, such as rib and sternum fractures. However, seat belts are generally critical to helping occupants remain safe during car crashes. For instance, by restraining passengers, seat belts keep them from being ejected from the car or thrown through the windshield. Although drivers and passengers who are injured by the negligence or recklessness of others can collect compensation from the at-fault parties even if their injuries could have been prevented if they had worn a seat belt, residents should still make every effort to utilize these safety belts, which save thousands of lives every year. If you live in Atlanta and were injured in a car crash, please contact the Atlanta car accident legal team at Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A., by submitting one of our standard contact forms or by initiating a live chat with an experienced and compassionate car accident lawyer who can help explain your legal options.