It was a phrase commonly drilled into the heads of American youth for years – “buckle up for safety.” The jingle came complete with a catchy tune and was later joined by the phrase “click it or ticket.” So, why are people still failing to wear their seatbelts today?
Seat Belt Stats. Actually, you may be surprised to learn that more people are regularly buckling up than ever before. There are still groups who are less likely to buckle up for safety be wearing seat belts, including teens, commercial drivers, men driving pick-up trucks, and those under the influence of alcohol. Nevertheless, seat belt usage is on the rise and the safety devices have saved as many as 75,000 lives in just five years. Of the 50 states, 49 have some sort of seat belt law in place, which certainly helps the cause. The exception is New Hampshire, which still allows residents to choose for themselves. While car sensors and alarms are making it a little more annoying to “Live Free or Die” (the New Hampshire mantra), buckling up is still more common in states with primary enforcement. That is to say, in states that allow police to stop vehicles and write citations for failure to buckle up, rather than issuing a seat belt citation only when the driver has been stopped for another offense.
Charged with Failure to Wear. Are you surprised to learn that you can be ticketed in St. Petersburg for failing to buckle up for safety? That’s not even the full extent of the law. Take, for instance, the case of a 17-year-old driver recently. Police filed a noncriminal motor vehicle charge against the boy when he caused a fatal crash. His passenger was a mere 14 years old when he lost his life and, when police were writing up the citation, they were sure to include an additional charge for failure to wear a seat belt. The 17-year-old will not be driving again anytime soon, but when he does, he won’t likely forget to “click it.”
Bad Examples. Yet, how can we blame our youth for failing to buckle up before leaving their Saint Petersburg driveways? There are many bad influences in this country that undermine the law and well-meaning ads. Recent headlines have been having a field day over the fact that contestants of the Amazing Race didn’t bother with seat belts when rushing through Alaska for the finale. Alaska does have seat belt laws in place, so, not only were these public figures showcasing bad behavior, they were also breaking the law.
Keep It Clicked After an Accident. Police recommend that seat belts always be fastened when a vehicle is in motion. They also suggest that it is safest to remain buckled after an accident. This lesson was reinforced when an officer was involved in a secondary crash a couple of years ago. The story has been receiving renewed interest as authorities try to urge people to be safe in the aftermath of a crash. The officer reported to an accident scene and was seated in his cruiser on the side of the road. Fortunately, he did have his seat belt buckled when he was struck from behind by a fast moving truck. Without the safety device, he likely wouldn’t have survived.
Seat Belt Fail. As a final note, it is important to realize that even good intentions can fail from time to time. In Georgia, a recent case was settled with a family receiving a judgment of approximately four and one-half million dollars. This came after a seat belt failed during a crash, resulting in the driver – Penney Bruner – being ejected from the vehicle. She did not survive and seat belt manufacturers, Key Safety Systems, were forced to pay the large sum for failing to adequately protect consumers.
Unfortunately, those unusual circumstances cannot always be prevented by the driver. So, when they happen, personal injury attorneys do their best to help the victims and their families collect the damages needed to cover the associated costs and to help alleviate the ongoing burden. And, remember … buckle up for safety.