Failure to Use Seat Belt Increased Deaths from Car Crashes
According to the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), car crash deaths have increased despite the Covid Pandemic. Contributing to this increase is the failure to use seat belts. The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS) reported the number of deaths of non-seat-belted drivers and passengers in Nevada increased by 20 percent from 2019 to 2020.
A recent crash highlighted how failure to use seat belts have contributed to more crash deaths. On a Thursday morning in September, two cars crashed into each other at the intersection of Flamingo and Lindell, and one of the drivers was thrown out of their car and died. The driver that died was not wearing a seatbelt. According to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, this was the 92nd crash-related death in Metro’s jurisdiction.
In May, a crash in North Las Vegas left one person dead and two others with critical injuries. The person who died and one of those critically injured weren’t wearing their seat belts.
Statistics from OTS showed that seat belt use in Nevada fell from 93.2% in 2010 to 89.4% in 2016. Nationally in 2020, only 90.03 percent of vehicle occupants used seat belts. Users of rideshare companies, such as Uber and Lyft, have also a tendency to not use seat belts.
Nationally, 22,215 were killed in car crashes in 2019, and 47% of them were not wearing seat belts. In Nevada, 22.3% of those killed were not using seat belts. From 2014 through 2018, Nevada saw 337 unbelted occupants die in crashes. A large number of deaths from crashes involving pickup trucks and SUVs involve occupants not wearing seat belts. Also, a greater number of crash deaths at night involve occupants without seat belts.
What are Nevada’s Seat Belt Laws?
Nevada law requires all passenger cars to be equipped with at least two shoulder-harness seat belts for front seat occupants. Nevada law also requires all occupants of passenger cars to be wear seatbelts. Under NRS 484D.495, the maximum penalty for not wearing a seat belt is a traffic ticket for a non-moving violation and a mere $25, with no Nevada demerit points. This $25 penalty has remained the same amount for decades, despite other changes to the statute.
Also in Nevada, law enforcement can’t stop vehicles merely because the occupants are not wearing a seatbelt. Traffic citations can be issued for non-seatbelt use only if a vehicle is stopped for other legitimate reasons. Such a law is called “secondary enforcement” seat belt law.
Nevada’s seatbelt statute also prohibits defendants and their insurance companies from arguing that not wearing the seatbelt as contributory negligence.
AHAS, amongst others, have argued that Nevada’s seat belt laws are not enough to save lives. They advocate for adopting laws that better enforce seat belt requirements.
How Does Nevada’s Seat Belt Laws Compare with Those of Other States?
Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have what’s called primary seat belt law. This means that law enforcement can stop and cite vehicle occupants for non-seat belt use. Some states issue citations if only the front seat occupants are not wearing seat belts; others issue citations for both front and back seat occupants. In its recent report, AHAS has given Nevada poor grades for its seat belt laws.
The Nevada Office of Traffic Safety estimates that if the state were to adopt a primary seat belt law, the state could save at least 9 lives, 125 serious injuries, and $25 million in costs.
Buckle Up and Save Your Life
By now, it should be common sense that using seat belts saves lives and prevent greater injuries. Seat belts can help prevent car occupants from being thrown out of their cars on impact. Being ejected from a vehicle in a crash is nearly always deadly. By using seat belts, a car crash doesn’t have to produce devastating results. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that buckling up can reduce the risk of fatality in a passenger car by 45% and by 60% in a light truck.
Let’s dispel the excuses for not wearing seat belts:
- “I’m not driving that far, just down the street.” You don’t have to drive far to be the victim of a crash. A crash can happen on the road just in front of your house.
- “I’m just driving in the parking lot.” Crashes happen in parking lots too. A lot. After decades of experience, we’ve seen far too many parking lot accidents.
- “The airbags will save me.” Airbags do not work like seat belts. They are designed to work in conjunction with seat belts, not replace them. Without a seat belt, a driver could be thrown into a rapidly opening air bag. Such force could injure or even kill you.
- “Seat belts are uncomfortable.” Being injured or dead is more uncomfortable.
- “I’m a safe driver.” While you may be a safe driver, others you share the road with may not be. The best defense against distracted drivers or drunk drivers is to wear your seat belt.
From personal experience, the car accident lawyers of D.R. Patti & Associates know what it’s like to lose a loved one from a crash. We stood by a grieving mother who lost her 18 year old daughter in a single vehicle accident. There were six occupants in the car, and only our client’s 18 year old daughter died. Why? Because she wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the car on impact. We too have lost loved ones from car crashes. One of our attorneys lost a family member who was thrown out of his car during a crash; that family member also wasn’t wearing a seat belt.
If you or a loved did become a victim of an unfortunate collision, the personal injury law firm of D.R. Patti & Associates can help. Our top-rated car accident attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates have over 50 years of combined experience in car claims in Las Vegas, Henderson, Summerlin, and Reno, Nevada. We know Nevada personal injury law and have the skills to get you the compensation you deserve.