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Never skip wearing a seat belt: Your life could depend on it

Imagine you just ran out of milk and the kids need cereal for breakfast before you race them to school. Without a moment's hesitation, you hop in your car to drive to the corner store. You take a moment to consider putting on a seat belt, and you say to yourself, "I'm just heading around the block. I don't need to use a seatbelt."

Listening to a thought like this could be one of the biggest mistakes you ever make in your life. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wearing a seat belt could be one of the most important things you do for your safety while riding in an automobile.

What the statistics say about seat belt use

Most drivers will go for years -- or even an entire lifetime -- without ever getting into a motor vehicle accident. Because crashes are infrequent in this respect, many drivers decide to skip the important step of buckling up.

However, in the event of a collision -- and remember that such an incident could happen at any time to anyone no matter how safely they drive -- statistics show that wearing a seat belt could mean the difference between (1) walking away from an accident unharmed or (2) death.

Here are relevant CDC statistics from 2016 that illuminate the benefits of using seat belts:

  • In 2016, 23,714 vehicle drivers and passengers lost their lives in an unexpected collision.
  • Among the teenagers (aged 13 to 19) and adults (aged 20 to 44) who died in 2016 car crashes, approximately 53 to 62 percent of them were not wearing seat belts.
  • Safety experts estimate that seat belts saved the lives of approximately 15,000 people in 2016 alone.
  • The CDC estimates that seat belts reduce the chances of serious injury and death by about 50 percent.

Fortunately, seat belt use is in vogue throughout the nation. In states that implement primary enforcement seat belt rules -- in which an officer can pull you over for failing to wear a seat belt -- compliance with seat belt laws is approximately 91 percent.

In states that implement secondary enforcement rules -- in which an officer can issue you a ticket for failing to wear a seat belt but can't pull you over for the offense -- compliance with seat belt rules is approximately 86 percent.

Were you hurt in a motor vehicle crash?

Even if you failed to wear your seat belt and were seriously hurt in a collision caused by another person's negligence, you may still be able to pursue personal injury damages in court. However, wouldn't it be better to wear the seat belt and bypass getting hurt -- or killed -- in the first place?

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