Buckle your seat belt! Following this timeless piece of advice is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself—or others riding in your vehicle—in the event of a crash. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, wearing a seat belt is the most effective way to reduce the risk of serious injuries in motor vehicle wrecks. For adult passengers, seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45%. But seat belt use is not just about making a choice for personal safety, it is also the law.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, wearing a seat belt is the most effective way to reduce the risk of serious injuries in motor vehicle wrecks. For adult passengers, seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45%. But seat belt use is not just about making a choice for personal safety, it is also the law.
Alabama Code § 32-5B-4 dictates when occupants of a motor vehicle must wear a safety belt and the type of restraint that is necessary. For front seat passengers, Alabama law requires the use of a properly fastened safety belt at all times when a vehicle is in motion. If an occupant of a passenger car is not in compliance with this provision, he or she can be ticketed for the violation.
For passengers in the rear seat of a passenger car, Alabama law also requires the use of a properly fastened safety belt while a vehicle is in motion. However, the failure for rear seat passengers to use a safety belt is a secondary violation, meaning that a citation will only be issued for this offense if the vehicle is stopped by law enforcement for another violation, and the failure to use a safety belt is recognized.
It is important to use additional care when transporting infants and children in a passenger car. Studies indicate that car seats and booster seats reduce the risk of death by 54% for toddlers and 71% for infants. Alabama law mandates the use of appropriate devices for infants and children up to 6 years old. Any person in violation of this law may be fined $25. Alabama Code § 32-5-222 requires a size-appropriate restraint system that varies based on the child’s age and weight.
From birth to age 1 or a weight of 20 pounds infant-only or convertible seats must be used in the rear-facing position.
From age 1 or 20 pounds to age 5 or 40 pounds infant-only or convertible seats must be used. They can be forward or rear-facing.
From age 5 or 40 pounds to age 6 booster seats must be used.
From age 6-15 safety belts must be used.
Seat belts are important for older children and teens, as well. In 2017, 54% of 13 to 15 year old passenger vehicle occupants who perished in crashes were not wearing seat belts. Adults should make it a point to model safe behavior by buckling up themselves, and by making sure that any children riding with them are properly secured in an age-appropriate car seat, booster seat, or with a seat belt.
It is important to note, however, that under Alabama Code § 32-5B-7, even though the law requires the use of seat belt, the fact that an individual was not wearing a seat belt cannot be used against them as proof of contributory negligence in a personal injury case. In other words, an insurance company cannot deny liability for someone’s injuries in a motor vehicle crash just because that person may or may not have been wearing their seat belt.
If you have questions about seat belt use or appropriate child safety seats, you need to speak with a lawyer who understands these special rules. At Siniard, Timberlake & League, P.C., our lawyers are experienced and knowledgeable about these issues. Contact us, we can help.