Believe it or not, federal law has only required auto manufacturers to include seat belts in cars for a little more than 50 years.
In just a few decades, seat belt use became commonplace and even required by law to protect individuals in the event of a car accident. Yet, we still face many challenges when it comes to taking advantage of the easiest way to prevent severe injuries in a crash.
Maryland study finds an alarming trend in seat belt use
The Maryland Roadside Observation Seat Belt Survey did find some good news. Seat belt use in Maryland is higher than the national average, with 90.4% of drivers and passengers alike using their seat belts. However, the survey also found that a driver’s seat belt use can significantly impact whether or not their passengers use their seat belt.
- When drivers put their seat belt on, passengers will as well 93% of the time; but
- If drivers do not use their seat belt, then passengers only use them 40% of the time.
On top of that, 17% of Maryland drivers admitted to not wearing a seat belt at least once in the last month. That number could be much higher, considering the impact drivers can have on their passengers.
Maryland law states that all drivers and passengers must wear seat belts (Maryland Code, Transportation §22-412.3). Despite that, it is clear that many people still forgo using their seat belt. Many people claim seat belts are uncomfortable, or that wearing a seat belt is even more dangerous than not wearing one.
Indeed, a seat belt might not seem like it offers much protection when it comes to severe crashes, but they play a large role in keeping us safe.
How much of a difference do seat belts really make?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that simply wearing a seat belt can:
- Reduce the risk of injury in a crash by 50%; and
- Reduce the risk of fatality in a crash by 45%.
This could make a significant difference, especially since roughly half of all individuals killed in car accidents each year do not wear seat belts. Increased seat belt use could decrease the number of injuries and fatalities considerably.
Even though seat belt use is required by law, it is often still a choice which individuals must make every time they get in their car. With the study’s findings, drivers should be aware of the influence they might have on their passengers – especially young passengers – simply by wearing their seat belt.
Although it is critical for drivers and passengers’ safety to wear seat bealts to improve safety, the failure to wear a seat belt does not bar or prevent an individual from receiving compensation. Ultimately, whether wearing a seat belt or not, a person injured in an accident caused by another driver remains entitled to compensation under Maryland law.