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South Florida Traffic Accidents & the Impact of Seat-Belt Use

Many drivers view seat belts to be an inconvenience during short trips around town, according to a new study conducted by the Virginia Tech, The National Highway Traffic Safety Association and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers know that whatever minor, temporary annoyance seat belts may cause drivers, the risk you take by not buckling up is far greater.

The majority of trips people take are local. People are lulled into a false sense of security amid familiar roads and surroundings when the reality is that a third of all traffic crashes actually occur within a mile of home. It makes sense considering that’s where you do the most driving.

The study, published in the January edition of Accident Analysis and Prevention followed the driving habits of 100 people over the course of the year. The vehicles of these individuals were outfitted with instruments that allowed researchers to follow the driver’s routes, patterns, speed and safety belt use.

What the researchers found was this:

Overall, seat belts were worn 79 percent of the time. This is encouraging, but it’s not great. It means that at any given time, 21 out of 100 people weren’t belted in.

Drivers were then grouped into one of three categories: infrequent seat belt users, occasional seat belt users and consistent seat belt users. Infrequent users were belted in 30 percent of the time or less. Occasional users were belted in 40 to 85 percent of the time. Consistent users wore their seat belt 85 percent or more of the time.

Fortunately, most users were consistent.

But a pattern began to emerge with regard to speed correlating with use of seat belt. It seemed if drivers were traveling an average of 30 miles per hour, they were less likely to buckle up (72 percent overall). However, if the driver was traveling at speeds of more than 50 miles per hour, they were more likely to wear their seat belts (89 percent overall). So on interstates and longer trips, drivers presumed greater danger than on shorter trips on secondary roads.

As mentioned earlier, that’s a skewed and unrealistic perception, and one that clearly requires more attention from safety advocates.

The NHTSA said the results suggested that infrequent users may only be deterred by strengthened laws, such as primary safety belt laws (or those that make it a primary offense for which an individual can be pulled over by law enforcement). Occasional users, meanwhile, may require more education to understand the risk they take when they don’t buckled up while running seemingly innocuous errands.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that seat belts can reduce the risk of serious crash injuries by more than 50 percent.

Florida Statute 316.614(4) holds that it is unlawful for anyone to operate a motor vehicle unless the driver and every passenger is properly buckled in.

While researchers here were quick to point out the limitations of a 100-car study, a similar but much larger version of this analysis is underway by the U.S. Strategic Highway Research Program, which will be looking at driving patterns and safety habits of some 2,000 motorists.

Call Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
If you think seatbelt use inconvenient, consider the inconvenience of being injured, March 26, 2013, Virginia Tech News

More Blog Entries:
Hit-and-Run Collisions Leave Victims Hurting in South Florida, Feb. 21, 2013, Margate Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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