Strong on the Law : Buckle Up and Live
In the first five months of this year traffic fatalities increased 4.1% nationally over the same period in 1984. But wait: In states that require the use of seat belts a dramatic reversal of this trend has shown up. New York’s mandatory seat-belt law took effect Jan. 1. For the first six months of 1985 traffic fatalities in New York fell 28% from the average of the previous five years. In Michigan, where the seat-belt law has been in force since July 1, an identical decline has occurred. In the two months since its seat-belt law has been enforced Illinois’ highway deaths have dropped 27.9%.
Labor Day weekend is traditionally a time of unusually heavy highway traffic and increased vehicle accidents. Michigan, with its seat-belt law in force, reported its safest Labor Day weekend in 27 years. Traffic fatalities in Illinois over Labor Day were at a 41-year low. Overall, according to Traffic Safety Now, Inc., an organization dedicated to promoting seat-belt laws, more than 400 lives have been saved so far in 1985 in states that require seat belts to be used.
As of now 16 states have enacted seat-belt laws, though some of them, including California’s, won’t take effect until next year. The experience of those states where the laws are already in force emphatically underscores the effectiveness of seat belts in preventing injuries and deaths. Nationally adopted and enforced, seat-belt laws could reduce highway fatalities by 9,000 or more a year. The proof of their value is readily apparent. What remains is for states that have not yet acted on that proof to do so.