Study Finds Correlation Between Deaths on Rural Roads and Lax Seatbelt Laws

Now that the snows have melted and Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, people will once again flock to Vermont and New Hampshire for the summer. For those who call the Western New Hampshire and Eastern Vermont home, we start to notice an increase in cars with New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania license plates. With the increase in road traffic, there will also be an increase in car accidents. With the increase in car accidents, there will be an increase in fatalities. A recent study found that states that do not enforce seatbelt laws with traffic stops have an increase in fatalities on roads in rural areas. For those that call the upper valley home, and for those just stopping by for the summer, this should be a major concern. The recent study, conducted by the University of Minnesota Center for Excellence in Rural Safety, found a correlation between states with lax seatbelt laws and an increase in car accidents on rural roads resulting in death. This study found that states without laws that allow police officers to make traffic stops for failure to use safety belts had the highest level of fatalities on rural roads. These laws are also known as primary seatbelt laws. While Vermont does have primary seatbelt laws, and participates in the “click it, or ticket” campaign, New Hampshire does not require adults to wear seatbelts. States like Vermont, with primary seatbelt laws, have noted an increase in seatbelt usage and a decrease in fatalities and major injuries from car accidents. The study also noted increases in accidents on rural roads. Especially relevant to summertime travelers, the study noted more than half of fatalities associated with accidents on rural roads involved an out-of-town driver. The study found that out-of-town drivers can be easily distracted by the picturesque scenery of rural roads. This distraction, coupled with their unfamiliarity of the rural roads, increases the likelihood of an accident. Moreover, it takes more time to reach a hospital in rural areas. Thus, response times to accidents increase and it takes longer for accident victims to receive treatment for their injuries. Combined, this increases the likelihood of death. As personal injury lawyers, we see the results of car accidents all too often. Car accidents can result in traumatic brain injury, and neck and back injuries. We know that seatbelts can prevent many injuries and deaths. Though local laws may not require the use of seatbelts, wearing a seatbelt is a minor inconvenience that can easily save lives.

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