“Seatbelts save lives.” We have all heard this saying, heard of people dying in auto accidents when they were unrestrained, and generally have been told from the time we start driving that seatbelts do, indeed, save lives. Nonetheless, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in seven drivers does not regularly use a seatbelt when in a vehicle. This startling statistic means that people are putting themselves in harm’s way, increasing their chances at death if involved in a car accident, and ignoring traffic safety laws. Wearing a seatbelt is a small thing that can make a big difference if you are involved in an auto accident.
Massachusetts Seat Belt Laws
As it stands right now, the law says you cannot get pulled over for failing to wear a seatbelt in the state of Massachusetts. Seatbelt use is considered a “secondary” offense, meaning an officer must have a reason, other than a driver or passenger not wearing a seatbelt, to pull the driver over. The majority of states have seatbelt use listed as a primary offense, meaning an officer can pull over a car simply because someone inside is not wearing a seatbelt. Massachusetts is among one in 16 states that does not share this requirement, though modified legislation is pending.
These rules also apply to children. Any child under the age of 7 must be restrained in a government-approved child safety restraint (car seat/convertible seat/booster seat), and children ages 8-12 may be graduated to adult safety belt use depending on their height and size. Seatbelts are particularly important for young children as they reside in the back seat, away from airbags and other possible features that are deemed safe for adult use but not children. All drivers and passengers over the age of 13 must wear seatbelts at all times. The driver can be fined $25 for failing to comply with these child safety laws.
Drivers can also be punished if their passengers fail to comply with these regulations, making it largely up to the driver to enforce seatbelt rules on minor children. A driver can be fined $25 for each passenger ages 12-15 not in compliance with the seat belt laws, and any passenger over the age of 16 will be fined themselves. Therefore, the best policy is to make sure you, as a driver, buckle up, and also ensure that your passengers are buckled up, especially if they are under the age of 16.
Wearing a seatbelt can save your life. It is estimated by the state of Massachusetts that wearing a seatbelt can lower your chances of death or serious injury by approximately 50 percent. If you or anyone you know has been injured or killed in an auto accident, an experienced auto accident attorney can help you navigate your legal claim. Even if you were not wearing your seatbelt which may have contributed to your injuries, you may still be entitled to compensation under the law. Contact John J. Sheehan to learn more about your legal options after a car accident today.