We have all heard anecdotal evidence about why seat belts are an important part of safety on the roads, and how they can save our lives during an accident. And this is not just empty rhetoric: Statistics reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that over 13,000 people were saved as a result of seat belts in 2008 alone. The organization - which works to educate the public about the injuries, deaths and economic losses that are caused by motor vehicle accidents - also reports that from 2004 to 2008, seat belt use saved the lives of more than 75,000 motorists around the country.
Seat Belt Law in North Carolina
In North Carolina, both drivers and passengers are required to wear seat belts - not just the shoulder portion of the seat belt, but the lap seat belt as well. While this law generally applies to drivers of all cars that were manufactured after 1967, and vans made subsequent to 1971, there are some exceptions, including:
- Drivers who have a medical condition or a phobia that precludes them from using a seat belt
- Those who are in the custody of the police, sitting in the backseat of a law enforcement vehicle
- Drivers of recycling and garbage trucks who are on duty
Those who use their vehicles for agricultural purposes and have designated "farm" license plates
Individuals who don't follow North Carolina's seat belt laws can face fines that range from $10 to over $25. In addition, offenders may be required to pay court costs in excess of $100.
Getting the Most Out of Seat Belt Use
In order to get the most out of your seat belt, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests the following tips:
- Don't put the shoulder strap under your arm or behind your back
- Do place the shoulder strap across the middle of your chest
- Don't use your airbag in lieu of a seat belt because it will not fully protect you during an accident, and may actually cause more serious injuries if you are not buckled up properly
- Do place your lap seat belt below your stomach, so that it reaches across your hips
- Contact your vehicle's manufacturer if you need extenders for a roomier belt, or if you need information about how to retrofit a classic car with today's safer seat belts