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Remember your seat belt…

By John Singleton on October 24, 2018

It can save you and those you love

Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Traffic accidents resulted in more than 37,461 fatalities and 2.2 million injuries in 2016 alone. That’s about 102 people killed each day in car crashes—or one person every 14 minutes!

Yet a simple, highly effective measure you can take to prevent injury and death on America’s roads is using your safety belt. Safety belts have been required in all new vehicles sold in the U.S. since 1968, and most states require all vehicle occupants to wear them.

But some drivers and passengers still refuse to “buckle up.” While safety belt use is on the rise in this country, one in seven people still don’t use these life-saving devices, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is quite unfortunate, because most people who die in motor vehicle accident were not wearing restraints.

The fact is that safety belts are effective. Statistics by the CDC show that safety belts dramatically reduce the incidence of serious injury and death among occupants of motor vehicles. Specifically, for drivers and front-seat passengers, safety belts reduce the risk of serious injury by 50 percent, and the risk of death by 45 percent.

One primary reason is that these restraints prevent the occupants from being ejected. Motor vehicle occupants not restrained by safety belts are 30 times as likely to be ejected from their vehicles during an accident; and three out of four who are ejected will die from their injuries.

In Gloucester County in 2018 so far, Virginia’s Traffic Records Electronic Data System (TREDS) has recorded 26 instances of people not wearing their safety belts in a crash. Most of these did involve injury, and the lack of seat belt use is concerning.

What are Virginia’s safety belt laws?

While safety belts have been required in new motor vehicles for 50 years, it was quite a few years later before their use was mandated by states. To this day, no federal laws require safety belt use.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, all drivers and passengers age 16 and older are required to wear safety belts when seated in the front seat of a vehicle. All children under the age of 16 are required to wear a safety belt, or be secured in an approved child safety seat, regardless of where they are sitting in a vehicle.

However, for adults, it is a secondary enforcement law, meaning that a police officer can’t pull an adult over for not wearing a safety belt while driving or sitting in the front seat. But, were the officer to pull you over for another offense, such as speeding, and notice you not wearing a safety belt, you can be ticketed for that offense.

This is not the case for drivers under 18, who can be pulled over solely for not wearing a safety belt. In addition, any driver found to be carrying passengers under the age of 18 who are not properly restrained can be ticketed and possibly cited for child endangerment. It’s not worth the risk.

How to wear a safety belt correctly

Regardless of Virginia’s safety belt laws, you owe it to yourself and your passengers to make sure that everyone “buckles up.” Here are five simple tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make sure you’re belted in properly:

  1. Wear the shoulder harness securely across your shoulder and chest—not under your arm or behind your back. With just the shoulder strap on, you can still slide out from under it and be strangled, while the lap belt alone doesn’t keep your face from hitting the steering wheel.
  2. Make sure your lap belt is secure across your hips.
  3. Sit upright, with your back on the seat and your feet on the floor. Slouching or putting your feet on the dash can result in serious injuries in a collision.
  4. Children under 12 must sit in the backseat and wear age-and-size appropriate restraints. Look no further than this blog in which we covered how one mother’s children were saved from a horrific crash by their booster seats.
  5. Remember, an airbag can’t do the job of a safety belt. Both are there to protect you in different ways. An airbag definitely can’t keep you from being ejected, especially if your vehicle has a sunroof, or you are in a rollover crash. A safety belt can.

Also, know that if you are in a crash and weren’t wearing your safety belt, some insurance policies will deny you benefits for your crash-related injuries.

We at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys are always looking for ways to keep our community safer. As lawyers who handle a lot of car accident cases on the Middle Peninsula, we encourage you to buckle in for any ride, no matter how short. It really could save your life!

If you are injured in a collision and need help negotiating with the insurance company, or the at-fault driver is denying fault and sticking you with the bills, you can always call us for a free consultation at (804) 413-6777. If you do need our assistance with your claim, don’t worry—we have a no-fee guarantee, meaning that we won’t get paid until you do.

Additional Information:
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles: Seat Belt FAQs

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Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Our community can see these ideals lived out in our work to prevent personal injuries from happening.

  • Safety Education
    GibsonSingleton launches a “Texts=Wrecks” campaign to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers.
  • Annual Coat Drive
    During the fall, our team works to distribute coats to people in need in our community.
  • Hands-on Service
    John and Ken join the Gloucester Point Rotary Club in cleaning up the community.
  • Supporting Local Schools
    The Gibson family participates in Gloucester’s Botetourt Elementary Shuffle fundraiser.