One hundred people in North Dakota died in vehicle accidents in 2020. That number will likely be exceeded in 2021. According to the North Dakota Highway Patrol, there are already 90 North Dakota deaths due to vehicle crashes in 2021 as of October 23. What’s worse is that many of these deaths could have been avoided.
KXNET reports that 54% of the 2021 traffic deaths involved people who were not wearing their seatbelts. According to the North Dakota Highway Patrol, seat belts are “the single most effective safety device to prevent death and injury in a motor vehicle crash.” In response to the increase in 2021 fatalities, the highway patrol will have more patrols in place between November 1 and December 16. These patrols will be working to enforce the state’s seat belt law.
The Vision Zero strategy
But perhaps, as Dylan sang, the times are a-changin’. Recent efforts to expand enforcement of the seatbelt law is part of why North Dakota launched its Vision Zero strategy. Per the data, one unbelted occupant of a vehicle dies every 11 days. Every five days, an unbelted vehicle occupant is ejected from a car. There are simply too many preventable deaths and injuries to ignore.
Seatbelts keep drivers and passengers in the car or truck’s “designed protective space.” Seatbelts:
- Help vehicle occupants live when crashes occur by keeping the occupant away from dashboards, steering columns, and other parts of the car. Seatbelts also keep the occupants in the car.
- Prevent the occupants of the car or truck from crashing into other occupants.
- Keep the driver positioned behind the steering wheel so the driver can continue to operate and control the vehicle and avoid subsequent crashes.
What is North Dakota’s seatbelt law?
The seatbelt law for North Dakota provides that:
- All occupants in the front seat of vehicles must wear their seatbelt – no matter how old they are.
- Any person in the vehicle who is less than 18 years of age must be buckled up, no matter where he or she is seated in the vehicle.
- Children who are 7 or younger are required to ride in a car seat or a booster seat. Children under 7 years of age who are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall can wear a correctly used seat belt.
Common injuries for unbuckled drivers and passengers
The severity of a car accident injury depends on a lot of factors: the speed of the car, the impact of the crash, and so forth. But in all cases, wearing a seat belt will greatly reduce your risk of injury or death, because it keeps your body from moving forward.
In the worst-case scenario, a person can be thrown through the glass windshield and onto the road, which will likely result in multiple fractures, nerve damage, and potentially death. But even a person who remains in the car can still suffer catastrophic injuries in a crash, such as:
- Broken sternums, ribs, shoulders, and arms from the force of the steering wheel/column
- Broken spines or spinal cord injury from being whipped back and forth, or thrown from the seat within the car
- Traumatic brain injuries from impact with windows, dashboards, or flying projectiles
- Suffocation from slipping down in the seat in front of an airbag
“If you weigh 125 pounds and are in a crash at 30 miles per hour, your body will hit the inside of your vehicle with a force of 3,750 pounds if you’re not wearing a seat belt.” – Vision Zero
What reasons do people give for not buckling up?
Common excuses, according to Vision Zero, for not wearing a seatbelt include everything from fear of “messing up” one’s clothes to fear of being trapped in a burning vehicle. Many people appear to believe that you only need a seatbelt if you are traveling at high speeds, or that the airbag is sufficient enough protection. The excuses are so prevalent that Vision Zero even has a “Million Excuses” ad campaign.
In the end, though, it is worth noting that not wearing a seat belt increases your risk of dying in the event of a crash, no matter what excuse you have for not wearing one.
How to wear your seatbelt correctly
Vision Zero recommends that drivers and passengers use the following techniques to position their seatbelts correctly:
- The shoulder belt should cross the center of your chest with no more than one inch of slack. Never tuck the shoulder belt under your arm. Wearing the harness the wrong way could cause serious internal injuries in a crash.
- Adjust the strap so it goes over the collarbone, not against the neck or face. Most vehicles have sliding height adjustments on the interior doorpost.
- The lap belt goes low across the hips – never across the stomach.
Larson Law Firm, PC fights for drivers and passengers who are injured in car or truck accidents. We also fight for the families of anyone who tragically dies in a vehicle accident. We work with investigators and others to show how the crash happened and who is responsible. We work with your physicians to fully document what injuries you have, and why they’re causing you so much pain and anxiety. We represent car and truck accident victims in Minot, Bismarck, Fargo, and throughout North Dakota. Contact us today at 701-484-HURT, or use the contact form to schedule a consultation.
I opened up my firm because I wanted to offer people something different. My staff and I take pride in a client-oriented approach to serving the needs of our clients, hoping that they always feel the door is open to them and their wishes. My office prides itself on state-of-the-art technology and cost-effective means to provide services.
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