Seat belts have been established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to save lives and to reduce the severity of injuries for adults and children traveling by motor vehicle. Research studies have shown that the use of seat belts can cut serious injuries and fatalities by half. Understanding the impact of seat belt use can help you and your family stay safer on Texas roadways. If you have already been involved in a serious accident, working with a qualified and knowledgeable Houston car wreck attorney can provide you with the best possible help in pursuing your claims with insurance companies and in the courtroom environment. A Brief History of Safety Belts British engineer and pioneer in the aviation field Sir George Cayley is generally credited with the invention of the seat belt. His safety device, however, was designed for use on a glider and not a motor vehicle. A U.S. patent was granted to Edward Claghorn in 1885 for an automobile safety belt. Use of these safety devices in motor vehicles, however, was not compulsory anywhere in the world until 1970 when Victoria, Australia, passed a law requiring front-seat passengers and drivers to wear seat belts on the road. Today, seat belt use is required for at least some classes of drivers and passengers in every state in the U.S. The Effectiveness of Seat Belts A statistical summary released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in September 2010 provided some insights into the positive impact of seat belt use in the United States:
- Seat belt use saved the lives of approximately 12,584 people in 2013.
- The NHTSA estimates that more than 62,468 lives were saved in the U.S. from 2009 to 2013 thanks to the use of seat belts.
- In 2013, seat belts saved the lives of an estimated 1,407 people in the state of Texas alone.
- According to NHTSA data, 223 people were killed on Texas roadways on 2013 who could have been saved by the use of seat belts.
- Approximately 53 percent of motor vehicle drivers and passengers who lost their lives were not wearing their seat belts.
- NHTSA figures indicate that 77 percent of drivers and passengers who were ejected from their vehicles during a crash were killed. Seat belts are one of the best ways to reduce these risks when serious accidents occur.
These figures demonstrate the ongoing importance and impact of safety belt use in passenger vehicles. Primary and Secondary Seat Belt Laws The Governors Highway Safety Association maintains records on the seat belt laws in effect in every state. These laws are generally classified as primary or secondary:
- In states with primary seat belt laws, law enforcement officials can ticket drivers or passengers for failure to wear a seat belt in the absence of any other traffic offense.
- Police officers in states with secondary seat belt laws can ticket for these infractions only in cases where another traffic offense has been committed.
The state of Texas maintains a primary seat belt law that applies to all drivers and passengers. Higher fines are applicable for children under the age of 17. Wearing seat belts in Texas can protect you and your family against some of the worst outcomes of traffic accidents. If you have been involved in a crash, one of your first calls should be to a qualified Houston car accident lawyer. These dedicated legal professionals have the experience and expertise needed to ensure that you receive fair compensation for injuries and losses caused by the negligence of others. Your Houston auto wreck lawyer will work with you to determine the extent of your injuries and damages and to pursue the best possible settlement for your claim, allowing you to enjoy added peace of mind even after a major accident occurs.