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Increased Fine for Not Wearing Seatbelt

The fine for not wearing a seatbelt has for some time been a maximum of $100. That is about to change.

Tickets for seatbelt infractions are said to have increased from 61,605 in 2002 to more than 96,000 in 2004. This may mean that more people are ignoring the seatbelt law, or just that enforcement of the law has become more rigorous. In any case, whether acting in response to these statistics or adjusting for inflation, the government is increasing the fine for failing to wear a seatbelt to $120, effective April 18, 2005.

The following points, paraphrased from an article prepared for the University of California Berkeley Traffic Safety Center Newsletter (Gantz and Henkle, October 2002), clearly set out the logic of seat belt use:

  • Seatbelts work as a restraint for vehicle occupants both by keeping them in their cars during a crash and by lessening the impact of a crash.
  • During a crash, three distinct forces occur.  The first is the force of the vehicle colliding with another object. The second is the force of the occupant’s body colliding with the interior of the vehicle. The third is the force of the occupant’s body organs colliding against the body’s skeletal structure.
  • A seatbelt function to stop the occupant with the car, preventing the body from continuing to travel at the car’s original speed after the car has stopped.
  • The seatbelt also spreads the deceleration energy over the larger, stronger parts of the body, namely, the pelvis, chest, and shoulders, which are more able to absorb the energy without sustaining an injury.
  • According to traffic safety researchers, seatbelts reduce a person’s chances of dying in a crash by 45% and being injured by 50%. Seatbelts also prevent total ejections from a car during a crash, an important factor in preventing fatalities, since 75% of car occupants who are totally ejected during a crash are killed.
  • Several independent studies have shown that seatbelts also reduce the severity of injury: the odds of serious injury for people not wearing seatbelts are four to five times greater than for people who are belted. In short, research has repeatedly demonstrated what is now widely known: seatbelts save lives and prevent injury.
Does everyone have to wear a seatbelt? Well, there are some relatively rare exceptions. The law says that any motor vehicle manufactured after December 1, 1963, shall not be driven unless it is equipped with two front seat seatbelt assemblies. This may suggest that vehicles built prior to that date if properly licensed, may be operated without seatbelts. However, anyone operating a classic or antique vehicle would probably be well advised to have seatbelts installed.

There are also exceptions for people who have been given a government-certified exemption for physical or medical reasons. Driving in reverse does not require seatbelt use. Also exempted are commercial drivers who get in and out of their vehicles at frequent intervals and who, while engaged in their work, do not drive at a speed exceeding 40 km/h.

Please drive safely.

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