Spike in Deaths of Unbelted Motorists in Virginia Sparks Warning
It’s no secret that wearing a seat belt may save your life or lessen the seriousness of your injuries in a car wreck. However, many drivers and passengers are ignoring the message. A spike in deaths of unbelted motorists in Virginia has alarmed highway authorities and alerted police to look out for violators over the Thanksgiving holiday.
New figures released by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) found 10% more people have been killed while not wearing a seatbelt in 2020 compared to the previous year.
The grim statistic proved a timely reminder as police departments ramped up the “Click it or Ticket” campaign in the Commonwealth in November.
Unbelted motorists in Virginia account for 283 highway deaths this year compared to 258 at the same time in 2019.
As car accident injury lawyers who help the victims of auto wrecks in Virginia day in, day out, we are alarmed to read this statistic. The life-saving nature of seat belts has been known for decades. Wearing a safety belt should be second nature to all drivers and the occupants of their vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seat belts save more than 11,000 lives every year in the United States. In 2017 alone, the NHTSA reported that seat belt use in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 14,955 lives.
The statistics about seat belt use come amid evidence that drivers are speeding more on Virginia’s roads in 2020. John Saunders of the DMV told media outlets the apparent decrease in vehicles on the roads associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged some drivers to accelerate.
Saunders said the number of deaths on Virginia’s roads is about the same as in 2019. Unfortunately, too many Virginians still are not wearing their seat belts, leading to an increase in fatal crashes in which the victims were unbelted.
He said Virginia is at an 85.4% seat belt use rate. Although this is better than in the past it means almost 15% of drivers and passengers are failing to wear a seat belt.
Failure to use a seat belt is not just hazardous; it’s illegal. Virginia law requires all front-seat occupants of cars to be bucked up, irrespective of their age.
Everyone under the age of 18 must be properly secured in a safety belt or a child safety seat no matter where they are sitting in the car or truck. The driver is responsible for passengers. People above the age of 18 can be ticketed for violating the safety belt law. Most people know a seat belt can dramatically reduce their chances of sustaining a serious injury in a car or truck wreck. However, many people are not sure why. Restraints can help reduce the incidences of ejection crashes and prevent you from colliding with the steering wheel or other hard areas of the car.
How Seat Belts Save Drivers and Passengers from Ejection Crashes
An NHTSA study using five years of data found your chances of being killed in a car crash increase significantly if you are ejected by the impact. Of drivers and passengers who suffered fatal injuries, about 27% were ejected. “As the injury severity decreased, the likelihood that the occupant was ejected also decreased. Only 13.7% of occupants with incapacitating injuries were ejected, compared to 5.2% of occupants with non-incapacitating injuries, and 2% of occupants with possible injuries, and 0.2% of occupants with no injury,” the study stated. The research found four out of five passenger vehicle occupants (80%) who escaped crashes uninjured were wearing seat belts.
Ejection crashes can cause horrendous injuries. When the impact of a crash throws the occupants out of a car, they often sustain severe lacerations from the glass of a windshield and shock from the impact. They may sustain head injuries if they hit the road surface and risk being hit by other vehicles.
The failure to wear a seat belt can be compared to not wearing a motorcycle helmet. There are no good reasons not to wear one and many great reasons to protect yourself and your family. Although you should always wear a seat belt, the failure to do so will not prevent you from filing a lawsuit against a driver who hit you if the other driver was culpable. Your car accident injury lawyer can advise you about your case. At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, we offer free consultations for prospective clients. Please call us as soon as possible after an accident at (757) 231-6288.