Does New Jersey Need to Change its Seatbelt Laws?

New Report Says New Jersey’s Seatbelt Laws Are Not Doing Enough to Prevent Car Accident Injuries 

When most of us get behind the wheel of a car or into the passenger’s seat in New Jersey, we automatically buckle up to avoid injuries in the event of a car accident. Fastening a seatbelt is an instinctive behavior for many adults who have spent years in vehicles either as a passenger or as a driver. When it comes to young children, most parents and guardians are particularly concerned about having their kids safely fastened into car seats that can help to prevent injuries if there is a car crash. Yet New Jersey could be doing better when it comes to seatbelt laws, according to a new report. Indeed, as an article from WPG Talk Radio explains, a “report by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety 2020 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws ranks New Jersey with 30 other states that need improvement in some highway safety laws.” More specifically, that report says that “New Jersey should be doing more to promote highway safety.”

What seatbelt issues did the report consider? It looked at the following: 

  • Occupant protection;
  • Child passenger safety;
  • Teen driving;
  • Impaired driving; and
  • Distracted driving.

Within those categories, the researchers for the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety gave each state a ranking of green (meaning good), yellow (meaning caution), or red (meaning danger) based on the state’s current laws. By and large, New Jersey has seatbelt safety laws in place that are designed to protect drivers and other vehicle occupants. Despite this,New Jersey got a “yellow” safety rating because it has “not passed a primary enforcement rear seatbelt requirement.” In other words, if a passenger in the rear seats is not wearing a seatbelt, the driver cannot be stopped for that offense alone. Instead, the driver can only be cited for failure to wear a rear seatbelt if there is another primary reason to stop the driver. 

Approximately 50% of all traffic fatalities in New Jersey involve a vehicle occupant who was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash. Beyond impressing the importance of making failure to wear a rear seatbelt a primary offense, the report also recommended that New Jersey “upgrade its distracted driver laws and specifically prohibit drivers from watching movies, video, or playing games on their dash-mounted cell phones while they are behind the wheel.” Just because a driver is using a hands-free device does not mean that the driver is safe from a distracted driving collision. Proposed legislation currently aims to make this change to the state law.

Preventing Car Accident Fatalities: Tips for Drivers

The National Safety Council (NSC) emphasizes that drivers have the power to prevent many deadly accidents. In order to do so, it recommends the following tips for drivers: 

  • Always practice defensive driving;
  • Always wear a seatbelt;
  • Designate a sober driver or plan to take a taxi or Uber if you are going to drink alcohol;
  • Get enough sleep before you drive;
  • Pay attention behind the wheel;
  • Know the signs of an impaired driver on the road;
  • Be engaged in your teenage driver’s driving habits; and
  • Stay up-to-date on recalls and have any repairs done immediately.

If you or someone you love got hurt in a car crash, you should speak with an auto accident lawyer about filing a claim.


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