seat belt effectiveness

University study raises questions on seatbelt effectiveness

Almost every state has laws requiring the use of seatbelts for both drivers and passengers.

However, a study undertaken by university researchers looks at the effectiveness of primary and secondary enforcement seat belt laws in terms of helping to prevent traffic fatalities.

A little history

Many states have adopted seat belt laws geared toward “primary enforcement” or “secondary enforcement.” The latter means that law enforcement officers can only issue a citation for lack of seatbelt use if he or she stops the driver for some other infraction. Some states, like California, have upgraded from secondary to primary enforcement, meaning that an officer can stop motorists for the sole purpose of issuing a citation if the driver and/or passengers are not buckled in.

Older studies

As far back as 2003, a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research and Stanford University concluded that mandatory seat belt laws “unambiguously reduce traffic fatalities.” In 2006, the published findings of a study indicating that states adhering to primary enforcement laws reported lower car crash fatality rates than those using secondary enforcement laws.

The McGill University study

McGill University researchers launched a study to learn whether primary enforcement seatbelt laws result in lower traffic fatalities today. Their findings, published in 2017, take into account changes over the years, such as maximum speed limit laws and the .08% legal limit for blood alcohol concentration. The researchers found that the change from secondary enforcement to primary enforcement had almost no impact on fatality rates. Among the reasons are improvements in road conditions, greater use of traffic roundabouts and speed cameras and changes in the economy since, when it contracts, there is less recreational driving and, therefore, fewer vehicles on the road.

Seeking help

Seatbelts remain the primary safety feature in every kind of vehicle, and there is no question that they help to save lives. However, injuries still occur, whether the accident is a minor rear-end collision or a major pile-up, and accident victims will need an advocate to help in negotiating full and fair insurance compensation to cover their medical expenses and more.