Seat belts are one of the most important safety features in motor vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives in 2017—and that’s just for passenger vehicles. Buckling up is about more than following the law; it’s about keeping yourself and your loved ones as safe as possible in the event of an accident.
Seat Belt Safety Facts
Although the NHTSA reported a national seat belt use rate of 90.3% in 2020, there are still many mythsabout seat belt safety that drive some people to not buckle up.
A few common myths and misconceptions include:
- MYTH: Seat belts can trap you in your vehicle during a crash.
- FACT: Seat belts will help keep you safely inside the vehicle during a crash, thus protecting you from being completely ejected from the vehicle (such as through the windshield), which is typically fatal.
- MYTH: Seat belts are unnecessary since my car has airbags.
- FACT: Airbags are not effective on their own. In fact, the force of an airbag can cause serious and even fatal injury when you are not buckled up.
- MYTH: I’m only driving for a couple of minutes, so I don’t need to wear a seat belt.
- FACT: Accidents can happen at any time, even during a short drive down the block.
- MYTH: There’s no real right or wrong way to wear a seat belt.
- FACT: Seat belts need to be worn properly to be effective. For example, if you wear a seat belt with the strap below your arm, it will be less effective in protecting you during a crash.
- MYTH: No one else is wearing a seat belt, so I don’t need to.
- FACT: Basing your actions on what everyone else is doing is rarely a good idea. If your friends or family are not using their seat belts, don’t be deterred from buckling up yourself. Better yet, encourage them to buckle up, too.
But Seat Belts Are Uncomfortable…
Another reason why some people don’t wear seat belts is that they can be uncomfortable. Sometimes, the discomfort may be due to an ill-fitting seat belt.
Make sure that your seat belt is the right size for you and fits properly. (For instance, if you are smaller than average, the seat belt may dig into your neck.) The lap belt should rest across your hips, not stomach; the shoulder belt should rest across your chest without touching your neck. The goal is to secure the belt across the pelvis and rib cage.
If your seat belt does not fit properly, ask your car dealer about (or shop around for) seat belt adjusters.
Some people may argue that even properly fitting seat belts are uncomfortable. It is important to remember that seat belts are primarily designed for safety not comfort. Putting up with a little discomfort can make the difference between a safe ride and one that ends in tragedy.
Seat Belts Also Have an Economic Benefit
In addition to physical protection, seat belts can also protect your right to financial compensation should you be injured in a traffic collision. New Jersey law mandates that the failure to wear a seat belt could weaken or wreck a personal injury case—regardless of who was at fault.
“To the extent your injuries could have been prevented or reduced by wearing a seat belt, the law will prevent the recovery of any money for those injuries,” said Shareholder and Partner Adam L. Rothenberg of Levinson Axelrod, P.A. “For example, if 50% of your injuries were from failing to wear a seat belt, then you would be barred from 50% of the recovery. Failure to wear a seat belt can, therefore, hurt you twice: physically and economically!”
Have You Been Injured in a Traffic Accident?
While seat belts reduce the likelihood of suffering a severe injury in an accident, like anything else, nothing is 100% effective. If you were injured in a car accident, Levinson Axelrod, P.A. will work to recover financial compensation for you. Our attorney team has won over $1 billion for our clients since our firm’s founding.
Call (732) 440-3089 or submit an online contact form to get in touch with a qualified New Jersey attorney.