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Maureen May
Maureen May
Attorney • (410) 321-6000

Seat Belt Use: Excuses People Make for Not Buckling Up

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All 50 states have mandatory seat belt laws, so why doesn’t everyone wear them?

Wearing a seat belt has been proven to prevent bodily injuries in an automobile collision by restraining that occupant during a forceful impact, and not wearing a seat belt is punishable by law.

Despite seat belt laws, people won’t wear them for a variety of reasons:

  • They think wearing a seat belt is not important when driving only a short distance or when traffic is very light.
  • They forget to wear them, especially when they are in a hurry.
  • They haven’t made wearing seat belts a habit.
  • They believe that seat belts are unnecessary because their car is equipped with airbags.
  • They consider seat belts uncomfortable, either because they are too tight or the shoulder strap cuts across their neck area.
  • Wearing a seat belt causes their clothing to become wrinkled.
  • They think wearing a seat belt is not “cool,” especially if others in the car are not wearing them.

Types of Seat Belt Laws

Seat belt laws are classified into two types:

  • Primary, where law enforcement officers are allowed to issue tickets to drivers and passengers who are not wearing seat belts without proof of any other traffic violations. Thirty-four states, including the District of Columbia, have primary seat belt laws.
  • Secondary, where law enforcement personnel are only allowed to issue tickets on drivers or passengers who are not wearing seat belts if there is another traffic violation involved. Fifteen states have secondary seat belt laws.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 percent of the people killed in car accidents were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash, and seat belts remain the most effective way to prevent serious injury and death in a collision.