Posted on July 23rd, 2021 by Zane Cagle
Rarely, do we get to use the term “habitual user” in a positive way…
Becoming a habitual wearer of your seat belt every time you climb into a motor vehicle is one of the few addictive behaviors that may actually save your life. We are seeing many fatal and serious injury crashes in Missouri where a high percentage of people are not wearing a seat belt. If you monitor safe driving habits in Missouri and Illinois like we do though the Missouri State Highway Patrol, you notice when more passenger vehicle occupants unrestrained in crashes.
Now that we are in the summer season when traffic has dramatically increased, the deadly consequences of failing to buckle up are apparent. Normally, Memorial Day Weekend launches the 100 Deadliest Days for Teen Drivers regarding roadway fatalities and injuries. However, teens are not uniquely impacted. Car crash fatalities with and without seat belt use impact all ages.
As a personal injury attorney who represents many injured folks in motor vehicle crashes, we see the horrible aftermath of injuries from crashes. From first hand experience, we know that car crashes are very violent and traumatizing. Individuals can be horrifically injured in a car crash even when restrained. We also know that seat belts do not promise that you will NOT be hurt in a motor vehicle accident, they promise to keep you in the vehicle. The survivability rate once an occupant is ejected from a vehicle goes down dramatically.
Seat Belts Have Been Proven Effective
I have never talked to an injured person who has ever told me that they regretted wearing their seat belt–not one. On the flipside, many people have been lucky to have a second chance to always buckle up.
People are seriously hurt and killed in car crashes-full stop. As someone who drives a lot and is directly involved in the injury industry, I buckle up every time I get into a vehicle. It does not mean I cannot be injured or killed in car crash, but I want to give myself every chance to survive–just a chance! I think most people when it comes down to it want the same thing.
Among drivers and front seat passengers, seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45%–Forty five percent! People not wearing a seat belt are 30 times more likely to be ejected. Maybe you think you cannot be ejected if you are in a crash in town. That is so far from correct. In 2018, there were a total of 22,697 drivers and passengers in passenger vehicles that died. More than half of those were teen and adults, age 20-44 who were not buckled up at the time of the crash. More than 2.2 million drivers and passengers are treated in the ER as a result of being in a motor vehicle accident in 2018. Non fatal crashes costs over $62 billion in lifetime medical and work losses. That is a B as in Billion.
Seat Belt Usage Not Improving
For whatever reason, it appears that many people are failing to buckle up when they get in their cars. It really should be habit at this point. Reaching for the belt whether in your vehicle, a Uber or a rental should be second nature.
MSHP–The chances of being in a motor vehicle crash in your lifetime is almost 100%. In Missouri, one person is killed in a traffic crash every 11.1 hours. A Missouri driver’s chances of being killed in a traffic crash if not wearing a seat belt is 42 times greater than that of a driver who is buckled up. Using the lap/shoulder belt cuts your chances of being killed or seriously injured in a crash 45-50 percent. For drivers involved in traffic crashes not killed or injured, 97.5 percent were wearing their seat belt at the time of the crash.
Six out of 10 Missourians killed in traffic crashes are not wearing their safety belts. MoDOT.org/safety-belts
Missouri Crash Data
Based solely on the MSHP statistics and not including injury and fatality reports done by city and county law enforcement, there have been 134 road fatalities since May 1, 2021. Of those 134 road fatalities, 109 were not wearing a safety device There were nine exemptions (individuals for which a seat belt or helmet was not available such as pedestrian). There have been 517 serious injuries since May 1, 2021 until July 21, 2021. Moderate injury numbers include 783 people and over 1,300 “minor” injuries. Just to be clear, a minor injury can still be a life-changing injury. When you read about the injury status in the a newspaper or report, the classification of injury is merely an assessment of the injuries at the scene and the type of emergency transportation needed. The MSHP reporting system does not try to asses the full injury or medical treatment to be fully required. Assessing long term need for medical care is not the function of the MSHP reporting system.
Thus, someone at the crash scene may not require an ambulance or have life-threatening injuries but they may absolutely be hurt and require a great deal of medical treatment in the months ahead. Frequently, there are individuals that do not transport by ambulance, but go the ER and require ongoing treatment. In many instances, their classification status on the MSHP report may even be listed as “uninjured” but they are hurt. Understanding this method of reporting by law enforcement informs us that there could easily have been over 2,000 people actually hurt in motor vehicle collisions in Missouri on the roadways since May 1, 2021. That may seem high but according to the MSHP, there were over 3,700 individuals involved in motor vehicle accidents between May 1, 2021 and July 22, 2021.
One of the most tragic facts is that some of these fatalities and severe injuries could have been prevented or reduced.
In the spring, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that seventy-five percent (75% of traffic fatalities in Missouri were unbuckled travelers. This is an increase of 9% compared to the same time last year. Before you think, “well, that is just increased traffic due to the pandemic”; that is an increase of 12 percent compared to 2019. In fact, our road fatality rate INCREASED in spite of a 30-40 percent reduction in traffic during the pandemic. According to the NHTSA, wearing a seat belt reduces your risk of serious injury and death by 50 percent.
The rise of fatalities is attributed to a couple of things. One, drivers have been traveling at increased speeds; and two, a larger percentage of people are failing to wear their seat belts. This is not just the opinions of safety experts, anyone can look at the data from the Missouri State Highway Patrol and see that an alarming number of people are not wearing their seat belts.
Myths about Seat Belts
Amazingly, we do hear common myths about seat belts. At this point in our understanding of motor vehicle safety, some of these begin to sound like excuses rather than misunderstandings sometimes. But, these are the most common myths suppled when it comes to failing to wear a seat belt.
Seat belts are uncomfortable and restrict my movement. If adjusted properly, seat belts do not cause discomfort. Seat belts are not like the old lap belts that were restrictive. Honestly, how much movement should you actually be doing as a driver or passenger in a vehicle? Seat belts may have to be more carefully adjusted for children and pregnant women but they should always be worn.
Seat belts trap you in your vehicle. This myth is usually associated with fire and water-related accident which amount for less than one-half of one percent of all crashes. Meaning, the odds are very slim that your car will burst into flames or you will have a water-related crash.
I’m just going down the block to the grocery store, I don’t need to wear a seat belt around town. Routine, seemingly low-key trips can be the most dangerous. Statistically, most crashes happen within 25 miles of your home in speed limits less than 40 mph. You can still get seriously injured within 25 miles of your house, so buckle up.
I don’t have time to put on my seat belt. Literally, it does not even take 3 seconds to put on your seat belt. If you are buckling up 20 times a day, that is only one minute out of your day. Three seconds to save your life.
My car has air bags, so I don’t need to wear a seat belt. Oh, this one I hear all the time and often, people are quite angry when their air bags do not deploy in a crash. Air bags are not designed to go off in every impact. Air bags are designed to work WITH seat belts. If you are not wearing a seat belt at the time of collision, you may slide under or over the air bag and possibly be ejected. . And, air bags don’t help you if your car rolls or has multiple impacts.
While our debunking of myths may sound ridiculing in tone, that is not the design. Possibly it comes across this way as the myths are just not supported by reality. We do see individuals every day who are horrifically injured in motor vehicle accidents when they are following all of the rules of roadway safety. Operating a vehicle on our shared roadways requires shared responsibility and shared safety. Granted, if you choose not to wear a seat belt, it impacts me only directly if your body is catapulted into my car (clearly a nightmare for everyone involved then) But the bigger issue is the loss that we all absorb through increase insurance costs, medical costs and loss of community.
Missouri and Illinois law requires all occupants of motor vehicles to be properly restrained. As the driver, it is your responsibility to be sure that everyone in the vehicle does buckle up. Injuries from motor vehicle accidents are often serious and can be life-changing. At The Cagle Law Firm, our attorneys know that injuries that require months of medical treatment are costly both financially and personally. When you are physically hurt, it impacts your entire life including your family relationships and your work.
If you’ve been in a motor vehicle accident and you are hurt, you will need legal help.
Call us seven days a week toll free 1 (800) 685-3302 or locally (314) 276-1681