How effective are seatbelts?

Seatbelt use has steadily risen over the years. The good news is that currently 92 percent of daytime drivers in New York, and their passengers, wear seatbelts. The bad news is that this rate decreases at night, when accidents are more likely.

Federal estimates hold that tens of thousands of fatalities are avoided each year because of seatbelt use.

National seatbelt enforcement

The "Click It or Ticket" campaign, kicking off on May 23, is aimed at getting motorists to buckle up. The campaigns, in collaboration with local law enforcement and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, begins on May 23. It is against the law in all states, except New Hampshire, to drive without wearing a seatbelt. However, in New York, there is no "primary enforcement" law. Still, several police departments are participating in the campaign.

New York is not a "primary enforcement" state - but maybe not for long

New York is one of a minority of states that do not have a "primary enforcement" law, meaning that you can be pulled over simply for not wearing your seatbelt. It is a "secondary enforcement" state, meaning that police can issue a ticket to a motorist not wearing their seatbelt, but only once pulled over for a secondary infraction. However, New York lawmakers are considering a bill that would turn New York into a primary enforcement state.

It is unclear whether primary enforcement laws work, although according to NHTSA, 92 percent of drivers use seatbelts in primary enforcement states. In secondary enforcement states, the number lowers to 83 percent. Still, a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that there was no evidence changing to a primary enforcement state saved lives.

A seatbelt can't always avoid injury

Everyone should wear a seatbelt. However, it is true that injuries and fatalities occur even if you have done everything right. Defensive driving, wearing a seatbelt and avoiding distracted driving are great methods to reduce the risk of an accident. But not all drivers follow such common-sense rules. And even with a seatbelt, the potential for back injury, traumatic brain injury, and other injuries remain significant.

If you are injured in an accident, contact a personal injury attorney. Whether or not you were wearing a seatbelt, you may have legal options regarding compensation for lost wages, medical bills and other costs.

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