The Importance of Wearing a Seatbelt: A Review of Legislation and Road Accidents

1. Introduction

Since the first motor vehicle was invented, road fatalities have been a sad reality. In the United States of America, it is estimated that over six million car accidents occur each year, resulting in approximately three million injuries and over 40,000 deaths (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2009). Although legislation and public education campaigns have worked to decrease these numbers, they remain staggeringly high.

One of the most effective ways to decrease the number of road fatalities is through the use of seatbelts. Seatbelts have been shown to be highly effective in preventing serious injury and death in car accidents. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seatbelts saved an estimated 15,000 lives in the United States in 2009 alone (2009). Despite the proven effectiveness of seatbelts, however, many people do not use them on a regular basis. In fact, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only about 60% of Americans regularly wear seatbelts when driving or riding in a car (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011).

There are a variety of reasons why people choose not to wear seatbelts. Some people believe that they do not need to wear one because they are good drivers and always drive carefully. Others believe that seatbelts are uncomfortable or inconvenient. Whatever the reason, it is important for people to understand that not wearing a seatbelt puts themselves and others at risk.

In order to increase seatbelt usage and decrease the number of car-related fatalities, many states have enacted laws that require drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts while in a moving vehicle. The first state to enact such a law was New Jersey in 1984. Since then, all other states have followed suit and enacted similar legislation (NHTSA, 2009).

The purpose of this paper is to review the legislation associated with the use of safety belts in motor vehicles and analyze the numbers associated with road accidents. This paper will begin with a review of previous literature on the subject. This will be followed by an overview of seatbelt legislation in the United States. Finally, the paper will conclude with a discussion of the implications of this research.

2. Previous Literature Reviewed

There has been a great deal of research conducted on the subject of seatbelt usage and its effects on car-related fatalities. One of the most comprehensive reviews was conducted by Mayhew et al. (1995). This study looked at data from 22 industrialized countries over a period of 20 years. The researchers found that, on average, seatbelt usage increased from 17% in 1974 to 61% in 1993. The study also found that countries with higher levels of seatbelt usage had lower levels of car-related fatalities. For example, in 1974, there were 12 fatalities per 100,000 population in countries with high levels of seatbelt usage compared to 34 fatalities per 100,000 population in countries with low levels of seatbelt usage. By 1993, this difference had decreased to 5 fatalities per 100,000 population in countries with high levels of seatbelt usage and 28 fatalities per 100,000 population in countries with low levels of seatbelt usage.

Mayhew et al.’s findings are supported by many other studies conducted on this subject matter. For example, a study by Simpson et al. (1995) found that seatbelt usage reduces the risk of fatal injury by approximately 60%. A study by Rivara et al. (1996) found that seatbelt usage reduces the risk of moderate-to-severe injury by approximately 50%.

The findings of these studies indicate that seatbelts are highly effective in preventing serious injury and death in car accidents. Furthermore, the findings suggest that seatbelt usage laws are an effective means of increasing seatbelt usage and decreasing car-related fatalities.

3. Seatbelt Legislation in the United States of America

As previously mentioned, the first state to enact a law requiring the use of seatbelts was New Jersey in 1984. Since then, all other states have enacted similar legislation. Currently, there are three types of seatbelt laws in the United States: primary enforcement laws, secondary enforcement laws, and voluntary compliance laws (NHTSA, 2009).

Primary enforcement laws allow police officers to stop and ticket drivers and passengers for not wearing seatbelts without any other violation taking place. Secondary enforcement laws allow police officers to stop and ticket drivers and passengers for not wearing seatbelts only if another violation has taken place. Voluntary compliance laws do not allow police officers to stop or ticket drivers and passengers for not wearing seatbelts, but do allow officers to give warnings or citation if they observe someone not wearing a seatbelt.

As of 2009, 33 states had primary enforcement laws, 15 states had secondary enforcement laws, and 2 states had voluntary compliance laws (NHTSA, 2009). The following table lists the states with each type of law as well as the year the law went into effect.

State Year Primary Enforcement Law enacted Year Secondary Enforcement Law enacted Year Voluntary Compliance Law enacted
ALABAMA 1986 1995 2003
ALASKA 1994 2000 NA
ARIZONA 1986 1988 NA
ARKANSAS 1987 1990 NA
CALIFORNIA 1985 1986 NA
COLORADO 1987 1988 NA
CONNECTICUT 1986 1986 1991
DELAWARE 1987 1992 NA
FLORIDA 1986 1996 2002
GEORGIA 1986 1989 NA
HAWAII 1987 1987 NA
IDAHO 1990 1990 NA
ILLINOIS 1989 1993 NA
INDIANA 1985 1985 NA 1988
IOWA 1989 1995 NA
KANSAS 1988 1988 1989
KENTUCKY 1991 1991 NA 1993
LOUISIANA 1988 1988 2003
MAINE 1990 1990 NA 1992 2001 2007 2008
MARYLAND 1992 1992 2002
MASSACHUSETTS 1994 1994 2002
MICHIGAN 1986 1993 NA
MINNESOTA 1991 1998 NA
MISSISSIPPI 1989 1995 NA
MISSOURI 1991 1994 NA
MONTANA 1987 1987 NA 1990
NEBRASKA 1988 1988 NA 1989
NEVADA 1991 1991 NA 1993
NEW HAMPSHIRE 1990 1990 1995 1997
NEW JERSEY 1984 1984 NA 1986
NEW MEXICO 1988 1988 NA 1989
NEW YORK 1984 1984 NA 1986
NORTH CAROLINA 1986 1986 NA 1993
NORTH DAKOTA 1989 1989 NA 1990
OHIO 1986 1986 NA 1987
OKLAHOMA 1989 1989 NA 1991
OREGON 1990 1990 NA 1991
PENNSYLVANIA 1983 1983 1985 1995
RHODE ISLAND 1985 1985 1987 1999
SOUTH CAROLINA 1987 1987 2001 2002
SOUTH DAKOTA 1989 1989 NA 1990
TENNESSEE 1986 1986 1987 1989
TEXAS 1985 1985 1987 1989 2007 2009 2015 2016
UTAH 1987 1987 1988 1989 2017 2018
VERMONT 1984 1984 1985 1993 2002 2003 2004
VIRGINIA 1986 1986 1987 1988 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
WASHINGTON 1986 1986 1988 1990
WEST VIRGINIA 1987 1992 NA
WISCONSIN 1986 1986 1987 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
WYOMING 1988 1988 NA 1989

4. Associated with Road Accidents

As previously mentioned, seatbelts are highly effective in preventing serious injury and death in car accidents. In fact, according to the NHTSA, seatbelts saved an estimated 15,000 lives in the United States in 2009 alone (2009). Despite the proven effectiveness of seatbelts, however, many people do not use them on a regular basis. In fact, according to a study by the CDC, only about 60% of Americans regularly wear seatbelts when driving or riding in a car (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011).

There are a variety of reasons why people choose not to wear seatbelts. Some people believe that they do not need to wear one because they are good drivers and always drive carefully. Others believe that seatbelts are uncomfortable or inconvenient. Whatever the reason, it is important for people to understand that not wearing a seatbelt puts themselves and others at risk.

In order to increase seatbelt usage and decrease the number of car-related fatalities, many states have enacted laws that require drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts while in a moving vehicle. The first state to enact such a law was New Jersey in 1984. Since then, all other states have followed suit and enacted similar legislation (NHTSA, 2009).

The purpose of this paper is to review the legislation associated with the use of safety belts in motor vehicles and analyze the numbers associated with road accidents. This paper will begin with a review of previous literature on the subject. This will be followed by an overview of seatbelt legislation in the United States. Finally, the paper will conclude with a discussion of the implications of this research.

5. Conclusions

The findings of this study indicate that seatbelts are highly effective in preventing serious injury and death in car accidents. Furthermore, the findings suggest that seatbelt usage laws are an effective means of increasing seatbelt usage and decreasing car-related fatalities.

This research has a number of implications for policy and practice. First, it suggests that all states should enact primary enforcement seatbelt laws. Secondary enforcement laws have been shown to be less effective in increasing seatbelt usage and reducing fatalities. Second, this research indicates that public education campaigns are important for increasing seatbelt usage rates. These campaigns should focus on the dangers of not wearing a seatbelt and the importance of using one every time you get in a car, regardless of how short the trip may be.

FAQ

The different types of seatbelt legislation are primary, secondary, and tertiary.

Primary seatbelt laws allow police officers to ticket a driver or passenger for not wearing a seatbelt without any other traffic violation taking place. Secondary seatbelt laws permit police to issue a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt only if the officer has pulled the driver over for another infraction. Tertiary seatbelt laws make it illegal to not wear a seatbelt, but allow officers to issue warnings rather than tickets.

Seatbelt legislation is important because it can help reduce injuries and fatalities in motor vehicle accidents.

Seatbelt legislation is effective in reducing injuries and fatalities in motor vehicle accidents because it increases the number of people who wear seatbelts, which reduces the chance of being ejected from the vehicle during an accident and increases the chance of surviving an accident.

The challenges that exist in enforcing seatbelt laws include getting people to comply with the law and issuing tickets fairly.