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States expanding seat belt laws to all passengers – May 23, 2011

If you were to review the crash reports issued by the Missouri Highway Patrol, you would quickly notice a strong correlation between the severity of injuries and deaths and the use of seat belts or other safety restraints.  All too often an automobile accident that results in a death has a notation by the officer that the deceased was not wearing a seat belt.  While the use of seat belts can in some circumstances cause injuries themselves in a vehicle collision, the evidence of their overall effectiveness in reducing injuries and death is very compelling.  This appears to be particularly true when used in combination with other safety devices and designs, such as airbags, in most modern vehicles.

Studies suggest that fatality rates are reduced by between thirty and fifty per cent if seat belts are worn.  The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that death risks for a driver wearing a lap-shoulder seat belt are reducing by forty eight per cent.  It has been estimated that in 2007, roughly 15,147 lives were saved by seat belts in the United States and that, if seat belt use were increased to one hundred per cent, an additional 5024 lives would have been saved.  National statistics show that 1,095 back-seat passengers not wearing belts died in 2009.

In recent years, states have been expanding their seat belt laws to apply to rear seat passengers as well.  While all states require restraints to be worn by children, only about half the states and the District of Columbia require seat belts for all adult passengers in a vehicle.  Illinois is one of those states expanding it’s seat belt law, with the law already passing in the House earlier this month and now waiting for Senate approval.

For whatever reasons, people somehow feel safer in the back seat and often fail to buckle up. But according to one state highway traffic safety director, unbuckled occupants can “become a back-seat bullet” in a crash. In collisions, experts explain that unbelted passengers in the back seat continue to move at the same rate of speed as the vehicle they’re in until they hit something — seat back, dashboard, windshield or people in the front seat. Missouri currently only requires seat belts to be worn by those 16 and over while in the front seat. Don’t let the lack of a law get in the way of common sense. Please do yourself and all your passengers a favor and insist on buckling up whenever you are traveling Missouri  or Illinois highways and roads.

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