While many drivers are in the habit of buckling up as soon as they’re behind the wheel, wearing a seat belt is a smart idea for everyone in the vehicle. It’s so important to protect yourself, no matter what your age is, what type of vehicle you’re riding in, or where you’re sitting. Front and rear seat belts save lives.
The modern seatbelt is often ranked as one of the best inventions of the 20th century. The three-point seat belt has saved millions of lives since its creation in 1969. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wearing a seat belt is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself during a vehicle collision. About 9 out of 10 US drivers regularly wear their seat belts (pickup truck drivers and teens are the least likely to buckle up). The NHTSA reports that seat belts save about 15,000 lives every year, reducing the risk of death by 45% and the risk of injury by 50%. According to the CDC, a person is 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle if they’re not wearing a seat belt, and 75% of people who are ejected from vehicles will die from their injuries.
History of the Seat Belt
While the modern seat belt has been in use since the 1950s, this life-saving device actually dates back to the 1800s. The first seat belts were not found in cars, but in air gliders. Pilots used nylon webbing to keep themselves and their passengers secure in the aircraft. In the 1880s, seat belts started appearing in cars. The first patented seat belt (1885) was designed to keep tourists safe while riding in New York city taxis. Several decades later, in the 1930s, doctors across the US started adding seat belts to their personal vehicles and advising their patients about the benefits of having a lap belt. In 1959, Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin invented the three-point safety belt; Volvo patented the device in 1959 and was the first auto manufacturer to incorporate the three-point belts into all of their designs. Under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (1966), all US vehicles produced in 1968 or later must have a three-point seat belt.
State Seat Belt Laws
In 1961, Wisconsin was the first state to require that drivers and front-seat passengers wear their seat belts. New York passed a similar law in 1962. There are typically two types of seat belt laws. Primary seatbelt laws allow police officers to ticket drivers who are not wearing their seat belts. Secondary seatbelt laws allow law enforcement to issue tickets for not wearing a seatbelt, but only if it’s secondary to another traffic offense.
There are currently 34 states that have primary enforcement laws for seatbelts, including Georgia. Under Georgia law, the driver, front-seat passenger, and all passengers aged 8-17 years old must be wearing a seat belt. Children up to 8 years old have to be secured into a car seat.
Georgia and Rear-Passenger Seat Belts
While Georgia has laws in place regarding front-seat passengers, it is one of 22 states that does not require back-seat passengers to wear a safety belt. It’s surprising, given that rear seat belts do save lives. According to Road Safety Observatory, rear seat belts reduce the risk of car crash injuries by 25%. Back seat passengers are three times more likely to die in a car crash if they’re not wearing their seat belts at the time.
Regardless of whether you’re legally required to wear a seat belt, protect yourself and buckle up.
About the Author
The Champion Firm is a full-service personal injury law firm serving the greater Metro Atlanta area. Our award-winning team of attorneys specializes in car accidents, wrongful death, premises liability, and slip-and-fall cases. Learn more about our team here.