The Importance of Seat Belts

Seat belts are important safety features of modern vehicles that save lives and prevent injuries. Below are some facts and statistics that illustrate the importance of using your seat belt while in a motor vehicle 1:

Safety Belt Statistics

  • One out of every five drivers will be involved in a traffic crash this year.
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among people age 44 and younger and the number one cause of head and spinal cord injury.
  • Approximately 35,000 people die in motor vehicle crashes each year. About 50 percent (17,000) of these people could be saved if they wore their safety belts.
  • More than 90 percent of all motorists believe safety belts are good idea, but less than 14 percent actually use them.
  • For every one percent increase in safety belt use, 172 lives and close to $100 million in annual injury and death costs could be saved.
  • Safety belts when used properly reduce the number of serious traffic injuries by 50 percent and fatalities by 60-70 percent.
  • For maximum protection safety belts should be fastened before traveling any distance or speed. Seventy-five percent of crash deaths and injuries occur within 25 miles of home. More than half of all injury-producing motor vehicle crashes involve low speeds under 40 m.p.h.
  • Motorists are 25 times are more likely to be killed or seriously injured in a crash when they are “thrown clear” than when they remain inside their vehicle.
  • In a 30 m.p.h. collision, an unbelted 160 lb. person can strike another passenger, crash through a windshield and/or slam into the vehicle’s interior with a 4,800 lb. force.
  • Motorists can increase safety belt usage by example and verbal reminders. Nine out of 10 people buckle up when asked.
  • Safety belt use is one of the best defenses against the unpredictable actions of the drunk driver.
  • Today over 25 countries around the world have some type of mandatory safety belt law. Results of these laws were measured; usage rate went from 20-25 percent before passage to 60-90 percent after passage.
  • A common cause of death and injury to children in motor vehicles is being crushed by adults who are not wearing safety belts. One out of four serious injuries to passengers is caused by occupants being thrown into each other.
  • About 80 percent of all injuries to children in car crashes are injuries to the head, causing brain damage, permanent disfigurement, epilepsy or death.
  • Of every 100 children who die in motor vehicle crashes at least 80 would survive if they were properly secured in an approved child safety seat or safety belts.
  • Three out of four families with child safety seats fail to use them correctly. Adults need to follow manufacturer’s instructions and secure seats properly before every trip.
  • An estimated 80 percent of American children area immunized against contagious diseases, but less than 10 percent are properly restrained when riding in a motor vehicle.

These statistics speak for themselves and are reminders of the importance of seat belt usage. Several years ago, I assisted in handling a case involving a “T-bone” crash where one vehicle attempted to make a left turn while the other vehicle was proceeding in the opposite direction straight through the intersection. The vehicle going straight through the intersection drove straight into the passenger side of the vehicle attempting the left turn in front of it. The speeds involved in this crash were relatively low. The vehicle going straight through the intersection was traveling approximately 35 mph. This was a hard impact, but certainly not a collision that would normally result in a fatality. Unfortunately, the passenger in the vehicle going straight through the intersection was not using a seat belt. At the time of impact, this passenger was thrown forward just as the air bag deployed. The person suffered a fractured cervical spine (neck) from the impact with the air bag and died at the scene Had the passenger been wearing their seat belt they would have been held in their seat and the impact with the air bag would have been minimized. Most likely they would have survived the crash with minor injuries.

Make safety a habit. The next time you get in a car, remember to buckle up. Should you be involved in an accident, your family and loved ones will be glad you did.

About the Author: Chris Cloude is a claims consulting with the Virginia personal injury law firm of Allen & Allen. Working under the supervision of Fredericksburg car accident attorney Edward Allen, Chris helps clients handle their personal injury claims.


1 – From James Madison University’s Office of Public Safety; see http://www.jmu.edu/safetyplan/vehicle/generaldriver/safetybelt.shtml for additional source information.