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Seatbelt Laws: A Mixed Bag in the U.S.

The World Health Organization calculates that in 2013 alone 1.25 road traffic deaths occurred globally, a staggering statistic.

Could that number have been reduced if more people had taken a few seconds to fasten their seatbelts? Very likely. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than 15,000 lives are saved each year in the United States because drivers, as well as passengers, decided to take a few seconds to strap in before facing an unknown crash. Seatbelt laws across the United States cause this number to stay high.

An engineer at Volvo named Nils Bohlin invented the seatbelt in the late 1950s. Although this lifesaving invention was in existence in the ’50s, most car manufacturing companies promoted it as an only an option. It wasn’t until 1968 that the United States made it mandatory that all vehicles, besides buses, contained a seatbelt. seatbelt inventor 

Two categories seatbelt laws exist today:

  1. Primary seatbelt law. This allows law enforcement to ticket drivers or passengers for not wearing a seatbelt during any given time. In the U.S., 34 states enforce this form of the seatbelt law. These states include most of the southern portion of the U.S, most of the Midwest, and most of the East coast.

  2. Secondary seatbelt law. This law states that law enforcement may issue a seatbelt citation only when the driver has been pulled over for a different reason (e.g. speeding or a missing brake light). There are 15 states that enforce this type of seatbelt law. These states include most of northern U.S. Only New Hampshire has no adult seatbelt laws.

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