Seat Belts – Safety, Regulations, and Controversy
Seatbelts are one of the most common mechanisms used to protect drivers and passengers in the case of an automobile collision. Fortunately for drivers, statistics show that, despite being relatively ‘low-tech,’ seatbelts are a very effective layer of protection, saving an estimated 9,500 lives every year. On the flip side, other numbers show that over 60% of people who die in car accidents were not wearing seatbelts.
Some people are more likely to “buckle up” than others. Male drivers between the ages of 16 and 25 are statistically the least likely to wear a seatbelt. Unfortunately, this demographic group is also known for containing the highest-risk drivers in the United States; if anyone needs to learn good seatbelt habits, it is these young men.
Seat Belt Designs
Seatbelts have come in many different designs through history, ranging from the simple lap belt to the modern three-point belt which goes from shoulder to hip and across the waist.
Many considerations factor into a successful seat belt design. Because the goal of a seatbelt is to reduce the force on a vehicle’s occupants in the case of a collision, it must distribute its stopping power in a way that will minimize bodily injury. The three-point belt, for example, is designed to spread the impact of a sudden stop over the chest and into the strong shoulder and hip bones of the body.
Given the strong evidence for the benefits of wearing a seatbelt, most governments in the United States have laws which make wearing a seatbelt mandatory. New York was the first state to require seatbelts, passing legislation in late 1984. Today, all US states, with the exception of New Hampshire, have laws requiring seatbelts in some form.
The penalty for not wearing a seatbelt varies from state to state, ranging from primary to secondary offenses. A few states make an age distinction in their seatbelt laws, though most do not. Fourteen states add indirect consequences for those who do not wear seatbelts; in these states, people who sue for damages following an accident may have their awards reduced if they were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the incident.
Not everyone is a fan of mandatory seatbelt legislation. Many people feel that such laws are an infringement on their rights. They argue that failing to wear a seatbelt harms no one except oneself, making it a “victimless crime.”
Furthermore, seatbelts are not without their dangers, argue opponents of these usage laws. Life threatening injuries to the chest, abdomen, and neck areas, as well as cardiac arrest have been linked to seatbelts, particularly in high-speed collisions. While injuries may arguably have been worse without a seatbelt, opponents of regulations say that forcing them to wear a potentially dangerous device is nothing short of illegal.
On the other hand, it is clear that defective seatbelts are a threat to any driver or passenger. A seatbelt which fails to lock correctly or distribute the impact properly can result in very serious injuries, disabilities, and even death. Seat-belt related recalls are not uncommon, as retailers seek to limit their liability.
For more information on seatbelts and other related safety issues, check out the resources provided by the Milwaukee personal injury lawyers of Habush, Habush & Rottier, S.C. at their website http://www.habush.com