A recent survey found that the top reasons for not using a seat belt included: forgetfulness, discomfort and driving a short distance. In the event of a collision, the decision not to wear a seat belt can put more than yourself and your passengers in danger.
Upon impact, unbelted passengers become projectile objects and increase the risk of injury and death to other occupants of the vehicle by 40%. In a frontal collision, an unbelted rear-seated passenger sitting behind the belted driver increases the risk of the driver’s fatality by 137% when compared to collisions where the rear-seated passenger is belted and does not hit the back of the driver’s head. Perhaps more importantly is not only the safety of the driver and passengers in the one vehicle, but also the occupants of other vehicles. These individuals could end up coming into contact with a body after it is propelled through the windshield and onto another car or roadway.
In a claim for personal injuries resulting from a motor vehicle accident, any person may have their compensation reduced by anywhere up to 50% for failing to wear a seatbelt as insurers consider the injured person partially at fault for failing to wear their seatbelt.
If these statistics did not scare you enough, Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act also has provisions governing the use of seat belts. The Act requires all persons in motor vehicles to wear seat belts. The Act also places an obligation on the driver to ensure all young passengers are wearing their seat belts. In the event a police officer has reason to believe that a passenger is contravening the Act and not wearing his/her seatbelt, the officer can ask that individual to provide their identification. In addition, every person who contravenes or fails to comply with the seat belt provisions is guilty of an offence and on conviction of that offence is liable to a fine of no less than $200.00.
A correctly worn seat belt not only helps to contain an occupant in his/her seat but also allows most of the collision forces to be applied across the chest and the pelvic region. A properly fitted shoulder belt should lie securely across the chest and shoulders, while the lap belt should lie securely across the upper thighs or pelvis. While a properly worn seat belt no doubt is effective in minimizing one’s injuries in a collision, many newer vehicles go that extra step by adding seatbelt pretensioners that tighten up the slack in the belt during a collision.
As a personal injury lawyer for many decades, I would never let anyone in my car without first ensuring their utmost safety by checking to make sure they are wearing their securely fastened seat belt. I encourage you to do the same.