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Tighter seat belt rules may have caused dip in passenger deaths

In 2009, the Louisiana Legislature increased the scope of the state’s seat belt requirements. While previously only drivers and front-seat passengers were required by law to buckle up, this new law extended that requirement to rear-seat passengers.

Legislators hoped that the law would encourage more passengers to buckle up, an essential step in preventing serious injuries and fatalities as a result of motor vehicle accidents. While it is hard to ascertain a trend with only two years of data, preliminary reports show that the law may be working.

In 2011, rear-seat passenger fatalities in the state fell to 34, a 10-year low. An observational study found that 77.7 percent of the state’s motorists buckled up in 2007. While a 100 percent compliance rate is obviously ideal, the state’s focus on seat belt use is a step in the right direction.

Lousiana’s statute is a primary enforcement law, meaning that law enforcement officials may conduct a traffic stop and ticket people they see not wearing a seat belt. Some other states have secondary seat belt laws that only allows officers to ticket someone for a violation after they are pulled over for another offense.

In order to minimize the danger of a motor vehicle accident, it is important to always wear a seat belt, whether on the road in Louisiana or a state with more lenient requirements. Not only does buckling up protect you as a passenger but it helps ensure the safety of everyone in the car. A 2002 study found that unrestrained rear-seat passengers who can turn into projectiles in a crash, seriously endangering drivers and front-seat passengers.

If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident as the result of someone else’s negligence, consider speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you preserve and pursue any appropriate claims.

Source: The Advertiser, “Louisiana rear-seat passenger deaths fall to 10 year low,” Oct. 8, 2012

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