A study released last week by the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control & Prevention ranked Oregon first among states in seat belt use, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. According to the CDC an admirable 94% of Oregonians said they always wear seat belts. California came a close second in the survey at 93.2% while Washington was third at 92% (in case you are wondering, North Dakota came in last at 59.2%). These figures compare with a national average of 85%, according to the CDC.
The results testify to the effectiveness of seat belt laws here in Oregon and elsewhere on the West Coast, and serve as a reminder of the importance of responsible driving habits. Seat belt use is required by law in every state except New Hampshire (48th on the seat belt use table – ahead of only the two Dakotas).
As the CDC’s Director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, noted in a statement announcing the study findings, “1 in 7 adults do not wear a seat belt on every trip. If everyone in the vehicle buckled up every time, we could further reduce one of the leading causes of death.”
Dr. Frieden might have gone further and mentioned that in the event of an accident wearing seat belts protects everyone involved – putting aside the increased risk of injury, drivers are more likely to lose control of their vehicle during an accident if they are not belted in. In safety terms, this fact gives added weight to states, such as Oregon, where seat belt laws allow for “primary enforcement” – meaning that a police officer can pull drivers over just for not wearing a seat belt. The CDC statement noted that states with primary enforcement laws have far higher rates of seat belt use than those that do not and, with them, significantly lower rates of crash-related injuries.
Ultimately, this becomes a question not just of personal responsibility but also of legal responsibility. In the event of an Oregon auto accident seat belt use by the responsible driver has the potential to effect the very nature of the accident and can help determine whether drivers and passengers in all vehicles are injured and, if so, how seriously. A Portland car crash lawyer can help victims sort through the often confusing legal and technical facts of an accident to determine whether seat belt use and other factors are legally relevant in their search for justice.