Alabama needs to get better about buckling up.
Our Tuscaloosa car accident lawyers know that you can't always prevent a crash from occurring, but your first line of defense is to make sure you and your passengers are strapped in.
A report released recently by the Alabama Department of Transportation indicates that nearly 60 percent of people who died in traffic crashes in Alabama last year weren't wearing a seat belt.
Of course, it's worth noting that some of those incidents involved vehicles that did not have seat belts, such as school buses.
However, of the approximately 425 traffic fatality victims who were inside vehicles equipped with seat belts, 251 of those weren't wearing them.
A total of 513 people were killed on Alabama's roads in 2012.
The actual number may be more, as the figures are compiled by Alabama State Troopers, who investigate crashes that occur on the state's rural, state, U.S. and interstate highways. Those crashes that happen in cities are handled by local police, and aren't included in these figures, which are preliminary.
With that in mind, the final count of crash fatality victims who were seatbelt-less is likely to be even higher.
The Tuscaloosa News reports that about 10 percent of those crashes were in the 10 counties that comprise West Alabama.
Tuscaloosa County had the most trooper-investigated fatal crashes in West Alabama, totaling 24. Pickens County reported seven while Marengo and Perry counties both had six Greene County reportedly had four traffic deaths, while Lamar and Bibb three each. In Sumter and Fayette, both recorded one each.
So far this year, state troopers report there have been 36 people killed in traffic crashes. Of those, 17 were not wearing seat belts.
Sixty percent has been the average rate of traffic fatality victims over the last five years among those who weren't wearing seat belts.
State law requires that all children between the ages of 6 and 15 must wear seat belts. Same with anyone who is in the front seat. Children who are under the age of 6 have to be restrained in a child safety seat that is approved by federal motor vehicle safety standards.
Again, whether you wear a seat belt doesn't diminish your chances of being able to pursue compensation if you are severely injured or if a loved one dies in a crash. However, we'd rather you walk away from a rattling incident with no injuries at all. Wearing your seat belt boosts your chances.
A 2006 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, titled Unconscious Motivators and Situational Safety Belt Use, found that while there are a small number of Americans who never wear their seat belt, what's more common is something called "situational safety belt users." These are individuals who essentially are playing Russian roulette with their lives every time they get behind the wheel.
Part of the problem is something researchers called "risk fatigue." People get tired of hearing over and over again about the risk of going without a seat belt, so they simply tune it out. The other problem is that after a while, driving becomes familiar and comfortable for most people, so they begin to feel as if they are mostly safe. This is not true, of course, as getting in the car is one of the most dangerous things you can do in this country.
Buckle up - every time.