Seat Belt Use Among Rural Drivers

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Recent Study Says Drivers in Rural Areas are Less Likely to Wear Seat Belts and More Likely to Sustain Fatal Injuries

 If you work in Philadelphia or New York but live in a rural area of New York State or Pennsylvania, are you more likely to sustain serious or fatal injuries in a car accident than urban residents? According to a recent article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, we have long known that rural roads tend to be deadlier on average than city roads, but a recent study reports that drivers who live in rural areas “are less likely to wear seat belts.”

While rural areas in the northeast tended to fare better than those in the American South and West, serious and fatal injuries in car crashes remained higher than in more urban regions of the northeast. The study was conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it highlighted how the most rural counties in the country have “motor-vehicle death rates three to 10 times higher than those in most urban counties.”

Part of the problem, the study suggests, is that some of these rural counties do not have primary enforcement for seat belt violations. What does that mean? When failing to wear a seat belt is a primary offense, a law enforcement officer can stop a car simply because the driver (or a passenger) is not wearing a seat belt. However, when failing to wear a seat belt is a secondary offense, a law enforcement officer cannot stop the car for that violation alone. Rather, the law enforcement officer can only give a citation for the failure to buckle up if there is a primary offense such as running a traffic light or speeding.

How do some of the busiest states in the northeast compare to one another? In Pennsylvania, failing to wear a seat belt is only a secondary offense, while it is a primary offense in New York and New Jersey.

Seat Belts: Facts and Figures

 Do seat belts really save lives? Can wearing them help to lessen the severity of injuries in the event of a motor vehicle collision? The following facts and figures from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety help to clarify just how important seat belt usage can be:

  • Seat belts have an effectiveness rate of anywhere from 45% to 60%;
  • According to the AAA, seat belts are “the single most effective means of reducing the risk of death in a crash;”
  • Over the last four decades, experts believe that seat belts have saved approximately 300,000 lives in the U.S.;
  • Proper lap and shoulder seat belt usage reduces the rate of fatal injury in passenger cars by about 45%, and the rate of “moderate-to-critical injury” by about 50%;
  • In light trucks, seat belt usage reduces the rate of fatal injury by about 60%, and the rate of “moderate-to-critical injury” by about 65%; and
  • When states have primary enforcement laws, seat belt usage tends to increase.

The facts and figures above are real. Seat belts save lives! Always buckle up! In the event that you were injured in a car crash, contact an experienced car accident lawyer to determine your rights.

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