Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Accidents Increase, But Drivers Still Resist Using Seat Belts: Part 2 of 2

In my previous post, I discussed the disturbing news that Massachusetts has the lowest rate of seat belt usage in the United States. Apparently, a lot of people in this state think that unless they’re barreling down a highway at 75 MPH, they won’t be badly injured in a car crash and therefore don’t need to wear a seat beat. These are the same people who will slow down to morbidly take a look at an accident scene along the road – and drive away still unconvinced. If anyone doubts that severe injuries and death can easily result from a 30 MPH car crash, just ask Beatriz Fuentes. Her daughter, Natalie DeLeon, was not wearing a seat belt when she was killed in 2006. The car DeLeon and her boyfriend were in was traveling about 30 miles an hour when the vehicle in front of it stopped short. As a Boston car accident lawyer, I see these accidents happen all the time; all it takes is a split second, to turn everything deadly. DeLeon’s boyfriend, who was driving, swerved and lost control. Their car rolled over. “She was ejected and suffered multiple major injuries,” said Fuentes, who has become a vocal advocate of seat belt use and founded the Friends of Natalie Bilingual Seat Belt Campaign in Springfield.

Unbuckled passengers in a car that is moving violently after a collision or rollover “become like a rag in a dryer,” said Fuentes. True. Unbuckled passengers in a car doing only 20 MPH are like projectiles in the car. As a Boston car crash lawyer, I can assure you that the injuries that result from such a crash can easily result in death – and sometimes worse. (If you think that death is the worst thing that can happen to you, try to think of what life would be like, burned over 90 per cent of your body and paralyzed from the neck down.)

Natalie’s Law is a bill that would strengthen Massachusetts law to allow police to pull over motorists who are not wearing a seat belt. Current law allows police to issue seat belt citations only when they have stopped a vehicle for some other, unrelated reason. This is known as a “secondary seat belt law.” Otherwise, police can flag down a seat belt violator only when a child under 12 is not strapped in. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that a primary seat belt law in Massachusetts would increase the use of seat belts by 12.5 percent and, as a result, save 27 lives per year in Massachusetts and prevent more than 1,000 serious injuries. Last year in Massachusetts, 277 were killed in motor vehicle accidents. The lead sponsor of Natalie’s Law, state Senator Patricia D. Jehlen, noted that, “In every state that has passed a primary seat belt law, seat belt use has gone up dramatically and fatalities have gone down.” The legislation would also raise the fine for each violation from $25 to $50.

Supporters were hoping the Legislature would approve Natalie’s Law before a June 30 deadline for the state to receive $13.6 million in federal funds for traffic safety. But the deadline passed; the bill never made it to the floor. Similar legislation filed in Massachusetts has failed to pass repeatedly over recent years. Opponents have argued that the law could lead to racial profiling by giving police another reason to stop drivers. In my opinion as an experienced Boston personal injury attorney, that’s paranoid and ridiculous. Other vocal opponents include the National Motorists Association, which encourages seat belt use, but contends that “individuals should retain the freedom and responsibility to make choices affecting their own safety and the safety of their families.” Lawmakers have also been listening to drivers in their districts who embrace “the libertarian idea that we shouldn’t live in a nanny state,” said Jeff Larson, general manager of SmartRoute Systems Inc., in Cambridge.

It’s stunning to me that a supposedly educated populace like that in Massachusetts could be so blind when it comes to common sense. Then again, so many people only learn the hard way.

The Law Offices of William D. Kickham And Associates represents injured victims of Massachusetts motor vehicle accidents and other personal injuries caused by someone else’s negligence. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident or motor vehicle accident, call us, and we can help you maximize financial recovery for the injuries you’ve suffered