New York law requires motor vehicle occupants to be properly restrained at all times, and studies have shown that seat belt use has steadily increased in recent decades. Seat belts save lives and prevent serious injuries, but many younger drivers choose not to use them. This worries road safety advocates, and the results of a study conducted in 2021 by researchers from the Cohen Children’s Medical Center suggest that they have good reason to be concerned.
The researchers studied the cases of 34,500 American children who suffered spinal fractures over a five-year period. They discovered that 63% of the severe injuries were suffered by youths between the ages of 15 and 17, and about two-thirds of these teenagers were involved in car accidents and were not wearing seat belts. With laws requiring seat belt use already on the books, the researchers concluded that targeted public awareness campaigns would be the best way to encourage young people to buckle up.
The seat belt defense
Seat belt use is often a contentious issue when motor vehicle accident victims pursue civil remedies in New York. That is because the Empire State is one of the few places in the country where defendants in personal injury lawsuits can mount what is called the seat belt defense. When these arguments are made successfully, the damages awarded to plaintiffs who were not wearing seat belts when they were injured are reduced to reflect what their damages would have been if they had been properly restrained.
The seat belt defense is based on the legal principle of comparative negligence. All road users in New York are expected to remain vigilant and do all they can to prevent accidents, and they should also take all reasonable steps to protect themselves against injuries caused by the negligent actions of others.