Woman buckles her seat beltMost Americans are regular, reliable seat belt users. The national seat belt use rate is 89.6%. In Minnesota, it’s even higher: 92.4%. Those who don’t buckle their seat belt, however, fail to protect themselves and those in the car with them. Across the country, 47% of those killed in crashes are unbelted. In Minnesota, 30% of those who die in car accidents are not wearing a seat belt. Whether they’re ejected from the car, injured by striking the windshield or steering wheel, or slam into other occupants, unrestrained motorists and passengers unnecessarily risk serious injury or even death.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident * and it was the other driver’s fault, we strongly recommend that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney today. A good car accident lawyer will deal directly with insurance companies, allowing you to focus on recovering and rebuilding your life.

How do seat belts save lives? Imagine being in a car traveling at highway speeds when a crash causes the car to suddenly stop. People who aren’t restrained inside the car keep traveling at the same speed until they crash into something solid in the vehicle or are ejected from the car. If they are ejected, their chances of dying double or even quadruple, depending on the type of crash. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) Seat belts spread crash forces across the stronger bony parts of the body, including the shoulder, rib cage and pelvis, and prevent car occupants from being ejected, notes the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Seat belts help in another way: By holding the driver in place, seat belts can allow the motorist to maintain greater control over the car, providing a crucial opportunity to reduce the severity of a crash.

Like a majority of states, Minnesota has a primary seat belt law, meaning police officers can stop and ticket unbelted car occupants. Tickets for failing to buckle a seat belt or place a child in the correct safety restraint can cost more than $100. Tickets issued for seat belt violations have dropped by a dramatic 55% in five years, according to the Department of Public Safety. However, people continue to die because they are unbelted at the time of a crash. In 2017, 78 unbelted motorists died on Minnesota roads. More than three quarters of those deaths happened outside of the Twin Cities.

Proper restraints, such as rear- or forward-facing safety seats or booster seats, are critical in keeping infants and young children safe in a crash. Crash reports for the entire country show that in 2017, 37% of children 14 years old and younger were not properly restrained when they died in traffic crashes, according to NHTSA. From 2013-2017, as many as half the children age 7 or younger who were killed in Minnesota car crashes were not properly restrained. Only 47% of children seriously injured in crashes are known to have been properly restrained. Restraint use is unknown for some victims, so it’s likely the percentages of those killed or injured because they weren’t properly restrained are higher.

NHTSA estimates 2,549 people would have survived crashes in 2017 had they been buckled up. That’s more than the population of Wabasha, which was 2,487 in 2017. Just think, something as simple as buckling a seat belt would save enough lives each year to populate a small town! Seat belts also decrease the likelihood of suffering a life-altering injury. The risk of moderate to serious injury is reduced by half when you wear your seat belt in the front seat of a passenger car, and by 65% when you buckle up in a light truck.

Safety experts note that air bags are not a replacement for seat belts; they are designed to work together. This is true even for pregnant women, who can read NHTSA’s recommendations for belt and seat positioning here.

If you have lost a loved one in a crash or have been injured in a car accident, contact Suk Law Firm today. Our firm has focused exclusively on representing personal injury and wrongful death victims since 1988 and we have recovered more than $125 million for our clients. We are ready to assist you.

Besides Rochester, we serve the following major southeast Minnesota cities: Red Wing, Winona, Mankato, Austin, Albert Lea, and Owatonna, and all outlying communities, as well as the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Bloomington. We also serve the Iowa cities of Mason City, Charles City, Osage, Spencer, Garner, Forest City, and Northwood and the Wisconsin cities of La Crosse, Onalaska, Sparta, Viroqua, River Falls, Ellsworth, Whitehall, and Black River Falls.

*A note about language:

Federal agencies involved in traffic safety have banned use of the word “accident” for more than 20 years, and with good reason. However, we use the word “accident” on our website, even though we know it has implications that run contrary to our professional thinking and training, because we recognize that “accident” is the word most commonly used in online searches when people are looking for help after being injured in a crash. If you’d like more information about this topic, please see our blog, “Car Accident or Car Crash?”