The safety benefits of wearing seatbelts in a motor vehicle are common knowledge. It lowers the chances of serious injuries and saves lives. Despite this being an established fact, several drivers and passengers ignore taking this critical safety precaution.

In doing so, they create peril for themselves and other road users. In Virginia, there has been a recent spike in the number of fatalities among motorists traveling without seat belts. The alarming trend has police and highway authorities on high alert during the holiday season.

How Seat Belts Save Drivers and Passengers

The use of seat belts while driving has been saving lives for many decades. Each year seat belts save an estimated 11,000 to 14,000 lives in the United States, according to the reports published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Chances of fatalities increase substantially because of ejection on impact in a car crash.According to an NHTSA study, more than a quarter of these ejections on impact lead to fatal injuries.

Occupants risk serious injuries when the force of a crash flings them out of a car. They risk hitting the road surface or other fast-moving vehicles on the road. According to the study, 80 percent of car occupants wearing seat belts escape unhurt in crashes.

Unbelted Auto Accident Injuries in Virginia

In a worrying trend, there has been an increase in unbelted fatalities on Virginia’s roads in 2020 despite the decrease in traffic volumes owing to the pandemic. While the total number of fatalities is almost the same as last year, the number of people without seat belts killed in car crashes has gone up by 10 percent.

This goes to show that many Virginians are not wearing seat belts, resulting in a rise in fatal accidents. The current seat belt use rate in Virginia is about 85 percent. Unfortunately, there is still 15 percent of car occupants traveling without seat belts. 

Another worrisome statistic is the evidence of drivers speeding more this year. Apparently, the decrease in traffic on the roads because of the Wuhan virus pandemic has aided this trend. 

Laws in Virginia for Wearing Seat Belts

Apart from the dangers of unbelted driving, not wearing a seat belt is also against the law. All occupants in the front seat of cars need to wear seat belts under the Virginia laws.

Anyone under the age of 18 needs to wear a seat belt or be in a child safety seat irrespective of where they are sitting in the car. The law assigns responsibility to the driver in such cases.

Code of Virginia 46.2-1094 states that any driver or a person over 18 years of age sitting in the front seat of a motor vehicle must wear a suitable safety belt system while the motor vehicle remains in motion on any public road.

Exceptions Under the Virginia Laws

In Virginia, the laws exempt the following people from wearing a seat belt while traveling in a motor vehicle:

  • A person with a physical condition or a medical affliction that makes it impractical to use a safety belt system provided the person is carrying a written note by a physician that identifies them and states the reason for such exemption  
  • An officer of any law enforcement agency assigned to transport person(s) in custody or driving in circumstances that make it impractical to wear a safety belt system
  • A United States Postal Service worker driving a motor vehicle and carrying out their duties as a rural mail carrier
  • A person driving a motor vehicle and carrying out the duties of a newspaper bundle hauler, rural newspaper route carrier, or newspaper rack carrier
  • Drivers and passengers in a taxi
  • A person driving a municipal motor vehicle and carrying out the duties of collection of solid waste, or collection and delivery of such goods and services that require them to exit and enter the vehicle frequently 
  • A person driving a motor vehicle and carrying out the duties of a utility meter reader
  • A law-enforcement officer driving a motor vehicle and enforcing laws for motor vehicle parking
  • An occupant in the back seat of a motor vehicle over the age of 18 years

Penalties for Unbelted Car Occupants

Under the Virginia laws, any failure to wear a seat belt unless otherwise exempted can lead to penalties.

  • A person in violation of this section is liable to pay twenty-five dollars as civil penalty into the state treasury and credited to the literary fund
  • A violation under this section does not establish negligence
  • A violation under this section does not diminish damages of any nature
  • A violation under this section is not admissible as evidence
  • A violation under this section may face charges on the traffic summons form
  • A violation under this section shall not result in the issuance of a citation

Consult with a Virginia Personal Injury Attorney

Although failure to wear a seat belt may not affect your chances of filing for an injury claim, you must always wear a seat belt while driving, for your own safety. If you or someone whom you know have sustained injuries in a car accident and were not wearing a seat belt at the time, contact a Virginia car accident attorney to find out what legal options you may have.

The personal injury attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp will work diligently to explore the best legal options to seek financial compensation for you. Call our office today at (833) 997-1774 or contact us online for a free and confidential case evaluation.