While seatbelt use is at an all-time high of 84% in the United States, 45 million American still fail to buckle up when they enter a passenger vehicle. The excuses law enforcement officers hear from offenders range from statements like: “It’s uncomfortable” to “That’s why my car has airbags.” The simple facts are that seat belts can be adjusted and airbags are not soft, cushy pillows and are not designed to deploy in all collisions – seat belts are meant to work in conjunction with airbags. But the simplest fact of all is that seat belts save lives.
According to the most recent statistics available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), of the over 20,000 passenger vehicle fatalities that occurred in 2009, 50% or more of the decedents were not properly restrained. The statistics further reveal that those least likely to buckle up are: teens, young adults, males, motorists on rural roads, nighttime travelers, and persons in pickup trucks.
In Minnesota, the law requires you to buckle up. The Minnesota state legislature amended its law (Minn. Stat. 169.686) in 2009, making failure to wear a seatbelt a primary offense for occupants of passenger vehicles on Minnesota roads. In other words, a driver may be pulled over and ticketed for the sole reason that he/she is not wearing a seatbelt (though there are efforts to change this back to a secondary offense – but this has yet to pass). A passenger or driver who is 15 years of age or older and found in violation of the statute can be fined $25 – although additional fees can bring the total up to $100. Additionally, even buckled-up drivers can be subject to a $25 fine for a passenger under the age of 15 who is found to be in violation.
To receive maximum benefit from a seatbelt, it must be worn properly. The belt should fit across your shoulder and chest, not your neck. The lap belt should sit across your hips, below your stomach. If the seatbelt does not fit you properly, most auto dealers can provide an adjuster or extender. If you own an older vehicle that does not have shoulder belts, check with the manufacturer to learn how to retrofit your vehicle with up-to-date shoulder-lap belts.
The excuses for not buckling up are wide-ranging, but statistics don’t lie – seatbelts save lives. According to the NHTSA, seat belt use is the single most effective method in preventing injuries and saving lives. So the next time you get into a vehicle, buckle up.
Think about it.