Led by Attorney Wes Pittman, the team at our Panama City injury law firm
is proud of our work representing injured people. We are committed to
representation, but we will always believe in "Safety First."
It is a commitment visible in this blog and in our work throughout the
community. As Benjamin Franklin wrote, "An ounce of prevention is
worth a pound of cure.”
The axiom holds true two centuries later, and one example we are reminded
of on nearly a daily basis is the importance of always wearing seatbelts.
A seatbelt may not prevent an accident, especially one stemming from someone
else's negligent or reckless behavior. However, a seatbelt can make
the difference between a fender-bender and an injury crash, and even between
life and death.
Police Focus on Seatbelt Campaign
Bay County recently launched a "Click It or Ticket" campaign,
an effort they are publicizing widely, including in a WMBB report. Police
are pulling over violators, reminding them that buckling up saves lives
and is required by law. An adult seatbelt violation does not count against
the driver's license, but it does carry a $110 fine. If a child is
unbuckled, the driver receives a $160 fine and 3 penalty points against
their license. Penalties are triggered the moment the car begins moving,
meaning both safety and legal concerns make it important to buckle up early.
Officers report seatbelt violations occur most often on slower roadways,
especially Front Beach Road. While the campaign ends Sunday, tickets will
continue to be issued after that date. Police say the penalties may seem
severe, but they remind people that the law exists to promote safety.
Safety Statistics & Recommendations from the CDC
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control ("CDC") updated
their policy brief on seatbelt use. Statistics show that 53% of the 33,000
people killed in automobile accidents in the U.S. during 2009 were unrestrained
at the time of the collision. Seatbelts reduce the risk of death for drivers
and front-seat passengers by 45% and the risk of serious injury by 50%.
One key reason is that they prevent ejection; more than 75% of people
who are ejected died, and being unbelted made people 30 times more likely
to be ejected during a crash.
The CDC calls seatbelts the most effective tool for preventing death and
serious injury in crashes. Seatbelt use has risen in recent decades and
the CDC reports that almost 13,000 lives were saved by seatbelts in 2009.
Still, 1 in 7 people still fail to buckle up.
In order to improve these numbers, the CDC recommends the use of primary
enforcement laws (note: as per the DMV, Florida is a primary enforcement
state). This means police can pull drivers over and ticket them solely
for a seatbelt violation. In contrast, in secondary enforcement states
they can only issue seatbelt tickets if drivers are pulled over for another
reason. Primary enforcement states see 9% higher seatbelt usage rates
than secondary enforcement states. Additional CDC suggestions include
greater enforcement of seatbelt laws, increased fines for seatbelt violations.
Additional Reminders from Our "Safety First" Team
We support campaigns like "Click It or Ticket." The fact that
the police are publicizing the campaign emphasizes a key point - it is
about safety, not an attempt to catch people by surprise. Every officer
we know would rather see people "click it" than write that ticket.
Another important point to remember is that a crash victim can recover
civil damages from an at-fault driver, regardless of whether the victim
was wearing a safety belt at the time of the collision. Our Northwest
Florida injury law firm will help victims either way. Still, we have met
far too many injured people who wish they had worn their safety belt,
including victims who buckled up 99% of the time but failed to do so on
the wrong day. We also see grieving families who wish they could go back
and remind their loved one to buckle up on the fateful day.
Buckle up today. Don't spend tomorrow wishing you had.