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Starting last week, police across Hampton Roads have been amping up their efforts to ticket drivers and car passengers who are in violation of Virginia’s (VA) state seat belt law. That law requires any drivers and front-seat passengers as well as backseat passengers under the age of 18 to wear seat belts. The local law enforcement efforts are part of a national “Click It or Ticket” campaign, an annual event organized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

While there has been some controversy about whether the state should be allowed to force people to wear seat belts, the bottom line is that seat belts save lives. In fact, wearing a seat belt is the single most effective thing to protect yourself and your passengers in the event of a crash, and seat belts save nearly 13,000 lives every year. The difference between being restrained in a car during an accident and being thrown from the vehicle can literally mean the difference between life and death. In addition, seat belts are a central component of every car’s safety features. For example, today all cars come equipped with airbags. Studies have shown that airbags are most effective when the occupant was also wearing a seat belt. In fact, not being restrained when an airbag opens can actually cause severe injury.

Seat belt laws — like the one we have here in Virginia — are crucial to incentivizing drivers and passengers to buckle up. Laws requiring seat belt use have been around since the 1980’s and today, statistics show that seatbelt use is at nearly 80 percent during the daytime. There is strong and consistent evidence that seat belt laws are responsible for the now widespread use of seat belts.

A few people view seat belt laws as an infringement on personal liberty, but that view is short-sighted. Laws are meant to maintain order and safety, and if a law can help drastically change a person’s chances of surviving an accident, then that’s a good thing! So when that police officer issues you a warning or a ticket for not wearing a seat belt, take it to heart. If a a $25 ticket can get people to wear seat belts, that can save thousands of dollars in medical expenses later.

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

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