There have been studies around the world and the conclusions are the same. Having seat belt laws and actually enforcing them reduces the seriousness and extent of injuries in traffic accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that fatalities are halved through the use of the combined shoulder and lap belts. That’s slightly more than 5,000 deaths a year avoided. When it comes to children, the statistics are even more impressive with about 70% of fatalities avoided. No matter what we may think about the use of seat belts, the evidence of their effectiveness is overwhelming. Yet, there’s quite a wide discrepancy between states on the wording of laws and the way in which the laws are enforced.
Let’s start with a simple piece of research evidence. It states the risk of injuries is reduced to anyone in the vehicle, i.e. it makes no difference whether you are sitting in the front or back nor which side of the vehicle you are sitting, wearing a belt is good for your safety. So if a state is going to mandate the use of seat belts, the mandate should cover the drivers and all the passengers regardless of age. Yet New Hampshire does not mandate the use of seat belts, and a significant number of states like Arizona only require belts to be worn by children. The adults are expected to act wisely and wear them because they know they will be safer. Some only mandate the use of seat belt in the front seats.
Then we come to the way in which the laws are enforced. Some states make the mandate a primary offense, i.e. the police officer can stop the vehicle if he or she sees a driver or passenger not wearing a belt. By its nature, this is the most effective form of enforcement. But seventeen states only use secondary enforcement, i.e. a ticket can only be written if the vehicle has been stopped for some other reason like running a red light. In those states, the official statistics show about 20% of the population routinely ignoring the laws. Since most of those people are teens and young adults, this explains the high fatality and serious injury statistics. Finally, we come to the amount of the fine payable on citation. In some states like Alabama and Alaska, the amounts for the first offense are trivial but in California, once you add in fees, the fine is about $100. In all states, the fines for a second offense are higher – in Maine, for example, the fines rise to $300 for a third offense. These are less trivial and, in states with the highest levels of fine and the most active enforcement, there are fewer deaths and serious injuries.
Calculating auto insurance quotes
One of the most important cost elements when calculating quotes is the medical expenses of those injured. So anything which reduces the seriousness of those injuries controls costs and potentially allows a reduction in the premium rates. In this case, we drivers get a double benefit. We are not only physically safer, but also get the benefit in the auto insurance rates we pay. This is not to say the rates will always fall. They may simply stabilize. But even that would be a benefit.