According to the US Department of Transportation, each year 22,372 serious
injuries and 1,652 traffic deaths could be prevented by the use of seat
belts, which reportedly saved 15,147 lives in 2007, if seat belt use rates
in each use state was at 90%. US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood calls
safety belt use the “most effective traffic safety device every
To show people how serious safety and transportation officials throughout the US are about promoting the use of safety belts, the “Click It or Ticket” campaign will take place this year from May 18 – 31. Over 10,000 police agencies are expected to patrol the streets to catch and cite people that are caught not using seat belts when riding in motor vehicles.
Currently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration National Occupant Protection Use Survey reports that the seat belt use rate for 2008 was 83%. However, one out of every five Americans still does not buckle up.
Teens are an age group of special concern. 2,502 of the 4,540 16-20 year old auto occupant victims that died in 2007 were not using seatbelts. 65% of the teen drivers that died in nighttime car accidents that year were not using seat belts.
Defective Seat Belts
In order for seat belt use to save lives and prevent serious injuries, the safety belt must be free from defects so that it works properly. Unfortunately, seat belt defects do occur and car makers have been known to recall vehicles because of defective safety belts. Also, injury victims and the surviving families of those who have died because a seat belt malfunctioned or had a defect have sought products liability and wrongful death recovery from the negligent manufacturers.
Recently, a woman who became paralyzed in a 2006 Colorado rollover accident was awarded a $4.23 million seatbelt defect judgment against Ford Co. Erica Hoffman’s auto products liability lawsuit contended that the seat belt was faulty and that it came unlatched during the auto accident.
A Colorado jury awarded Hoffman $18 million, assigning 25% of the liability to Ford. She also settled with TRW Automotive Safety Systems Inc, the company that made the seat belt, as well as the driver of the 1999 Ford Mercury Cougar Coupe that was involved in her rollover accident.
Car makers and seat belt manufacturers must be held liable for negligence when they make and install safety belts that are defective. Vehicle occupants rely on safety belts to keep them secure in the event of a motor vehicle crash. A seat belt that doesn’t work properly can cause a vehicle occupant to hit his or her head against the windows or roof of a car. He or she can also get thrown out of the vehicle. A person whose seat belt unlatches during an auto accident could end up with a traumatic brain injury, a spinal cord injury, or massive internal injuries that might otherwise have been prevented.
New Study: Higher Seat Belt Use Could Save Many Lives, NHTSA, May 14, 2009
Woman wins $4.23 million from Ford in lawsuit, Examiner.com, May 1, 2009
Related Web Resources:
Click it or Ticket, NHTSA
Seat Belt Use in 2008 – Use Rates in the States and Territories (PDF)
Contact our auto products liability law firm to discuss your defective seat belt case. We have helped many auto products liability victims and their family throughout the US recover damages for personal injury and wrongful death.