Wearing a seat belt is not just the law, it's also a good idea. You can be fined for not wearing a seat belt in 49 states, but the desire to avoid stiff penalties pales when compared to the safety benefits that come from belting up. Although seat belt use in 2015 was up nationwide to 88.5 percent, according to the annual survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it's still easy to come up with reasons to skip clicking the belt - but that's always a bad idea.
Seat belts save lives
Even the most experienced driver can be involved in a vehicle crash. Did you know that when wearing a seat belt, your risks of dying in an accident go down by 45 percent if you are in the front seat of a passenger car, and by 60 percent if you are in a light truck? Even with the rising rate of seat belt use across the country, about 40,000 people die each year in automobile accidents, and vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for people under 35 years old.
It's easier to understand the role seat belts play in keeping you safe when you break down the mechanics of a vehicle crash. If a car is proceeding at 30 m.p.h., its driver and passengers are also traveling forward at that speed. After the car hits something and stops, the unbuckled people in the car keep moving until they collide with something or are thrown from it. If a car is traveling at a speed of 30 m.p.h., the impact on the passengers is the same as a fall from a three-story building.
Seat belts reduce injuries in accidents
When you are wearing your seat belt during an accident, you feel the impact in the areas of your body that are best equipped to absorb it, like your hip and shoulder bones. The seat belt prevents you from hitting the dashboard or another passenger, and also stops you from being thrown from the car. According to Oklahoma State University experts, being thrown from a car is the number one cause of death in traffic accidents.
No excuse is good enough
It's not uncommon to think you can get away without buckling up on a short trip. But statistics show that 80 percent of traffic deaths happen within 25 miles of home and at speeds under 40 m.p.h. Fears of getting trapped in the vehicle by the seat belt are also unfounded, since you're 25 times more likely to die if you are thrown from the car. Some people think that the presence of air bags in a car makes wearing seat belts unnecessary, but that is not true. Air bags don't offer the same level of protection, nor will they always prevent you from being thrown from the car. In 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration, airbags saved 2,396 lives, while the use of seat belts saved 12,802 lives.