A total of 23,714 drivers and passengers died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016. That same year, 2.6 million drivers and passengers were treated in emergency rooms across the country after being involved in motor vehicle crashes. Unfortunately, motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for Americans under 30.
Wearing seat belts has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of death and serious injury in motor vehicle crashes. In fact, among drivers and front-seat passengers, wearing seat belts has been shown to reduce the risk of death by 45 percent, and cut the risk of serious injury by 50 percent.
In 1968, the federal government recognized that the vast majority of studies demonstrated that wearing seat belts greatly reduces the risk of death and injury in car crashes, and mandated seatbelt installation in all new vehicles. Even then, the actual use of those seatbelts wasn’t required by any state until New York passed a law in 1984. Today, every state except New Hampshire has some form of mandatory seatbelt usage law for adult drivers.
Wearing a seatbelt is one of the most effective ways to prevent death and serious injury in a crash. Unfortunately, not everyone wears seatbelts while driving. As recently as 2014, the national percentage of front seat motor vehicle occupants wearing seat belts was as low as 86 percent. Sadly, in Virginia, that percentage was only 78 percent.
What has the Commonwealth of Virginia done to encourage everyone to wear seatbelts?
Virginia has enacted mandatory seatbelt laws. Under Virginia law, front-seat drivers and passengers over the age of 18 are required to use seatbelts at all times while the motor vehicle is in motion on a public highway. Any passenger under the age of 18 is required to be placed in a child restraint device (“car seat”) or seatbelt, depending upon the age, height, and weight of the underage passenger. If the underage passenger is not appropriately restrained, it is the driver of the vehicle who will be ticketed for the violation.
In summary, using seatbelts in motor vehicles has been proven to reduce the risk of injury or death. All vehicles manufactured in the United States after 1968 are equipped with seatbelts, and we should all be using them. The Commonwealth of Virginia feels so strongly about encouraging safe driving habits and seatbelt use that we are all required to wear them by law. Make it a habit to “buckle up,” and the next time you start your car, make sure your passengers are “buckled up” as well, to ensure everyone travels safely.