This summer a 15-year-old girl was killed on Denver’s E-470 when the car in which she was a passenger crashed into an embankment after colliding with another vehicle. The victim, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the car sustaining fatal injuries. This tragic story has become all too common on Colorado roadways. This is why state leaders have announced an ambitious goal of reaching zero traffic fatalities in coming years. “This new vision serves as a wake-up call to any who have become complacent about the number of traffic deaths in Colorado each year," says Governor John Hickenlooper. While this bold vision may not be achieved overnight, one proven way to reduce traffic fatalities is by wearing a seat belt.
In 2014, 163 people who weren’t buckled up lost their lives in traffic crashes on Colorado roadways. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 81 percent of Coloradans wear seat belts, just slightly below the national average of 86 percent, and if everyone buckled up, nearly half of the victims would have survived. According to AAA, seat belts are 45 to 60 percent effective in reducing the risk of crash-related death, and saved nearly 300,000 U.S. lives since 1975. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, if everyone buckles up, an additional 2,800 deaths could be prevented each year.
“Traffic crashes are still one of the leading causes of death in Colorado and across the country” says Scott Hernandez, chief of the state patrol. AAA stresses that buckling up is the most important safety measure you can take to protect yourself in a crash as it helps keep you safe and secure inside your vehicle. Seat belts are also the best defense against impaired, aggressive, and distracted drivers. Unfortunately, Colorado seat belt laws are secondary, which means officers can only give tickets if they pulled the driver over for another reason, even though seat belt use is mandatory for all Colorado drivers and front-seat passengers. In other states, primary seat belt laws allow an officer to stop and ticket someone just for not buckling up. And not surprisingly, those states report lower vehicle injuries and fatalities because those laws tend to increase a state’s seat belt use rate by an average of 10 percent. In fact, According to the Colorado State Patrol, more than 52 percent of those killed in crashes last year in our state were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of their crash.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, lap and shoulder belts are designed to keep motorists in their seats during a crash. Worn properly, safety belts spread crash forces across the stronger bony parts of the upper body. Safety belts also prevent occupants from being ejected from the vehicle, an event associated with high risk of injury and death. Without belts, people risk hitting things inside their vehicle and being ejected altogether. Relative to occupants who are not ejected from vehicles, occupants who are ejected in non-rollover crashes are nearly twice as likely to die. Seat belts can also reduce the risk of moderate injury by nearly 65 percent for both drivers and passengers by simply buckling up.
If you or a family member were injured in a vehicle accident, contact an experienced Denver vehicle accident lawyer to understand your insurance coverage, learn how to preserve your rights, and get the justice you deserve.