Our Panama City car accident law firm is saddened to read about another life lost on our region's roadways. According to a report by The News Herald, an unidentified driver was behind the wheel of a Toyota Celica, travelling north on Clemmons Road in Washington County on Friday June 1. At around 9:45 P.M., the driver appears to have lost control of the car at a curve in the road. The Toyota left the road surface, crashed into a dirt embankment, and came to a stop facing south on the roadway.
The driver was taken to Bay Medical Hospital in critical condition. Passenger Zachary Dixon, a 38-year-old from Vernon, died in the single car accident. An investigation is ongoing, but charges had not been filed at the time of the news report. However, Florida Highway Patrol did note that neither driver nor passenger was wearing a seatbelt.
Every fatal accident is a tragedy. It is particularly upsetting when loved ones are left wondering if a simple safety step could have prevented the death. Seat belts are the most effective safety device available for preventing death and limiting injury in vehicle crashes. Some statistics suggest wearing a seat belt can reduce the risk of injury in a crash by 50%. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA"), more than 75,000 lives were saved by seat belts in the period from 2004 to 2008 alone. The study found that 42% of individuals who died in passenger vehicle accidents in 2007 were not wearing safety belts. Another NHTSA study suggested that raising seatbelt use to 90% nationwide would save 1,600 lives and could prevent 22,000 injuries.
In general, seatbelt use has increased over time. In 1998, use across the nation averaged 69%. By 2009, that measurement increased to 88% nationwide. Sadly, a recent NHTSA did note a drop in use from 2010 to 2011. Use by vehicle occupants during weekday rush hours fell from 86% in 2010 to 83% in 2011. Certain areas in the western states saw usage drop from an impressive 95% to 93% from 2010 to 2011.
Seat belt use is required by law in 49 states and in the District of Columbia, with New Hampshire being the only state that doesn't have an adult seat belt law. Usage appears to be higher in states allowing primary enforcement, meaning police may stop vehicles and cite occupants solely for a failure to use safety belts. Usage rates average 88% in primary enforcement states compared to 75% where seat belt laws are only subject to secondary enforcement, meaning a seat belt citation can only be written after the vehicle has been stopped for another reason. In 2009, Florida law changed to allow primary enforcement of the state's seatbelt law, which requires seat belt use by all front-seat passengers and use by passengers under 18, regardless of seat location
We encourage all members of our community to make seat belt use a standard part of their automobile travel routine. It is a quick precaution that saves lives.
As always, if you or someone you love suffers injury due to another driver's negligence, please contact our Panama City accident lawyer at The Pittman Firm. We can help you get the compensation you deserve.