Seat belts really do save lives. The country, on a whole, has learned this important lesson: in 2018, the national average for seat belt use was 89.6%, about the same as it was the year before.

North Carolina scored better than average: between 2014 and 2018, our seat belt use was 91%. Per the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program’s 2018 report:

“North Carolina’s seat belt use rate has been above the 90 percent threshold for all but one of the past five years. Observed seat belt use among passenger vehicle occupants decreased slightly to 91.3 percent in 2018. Belt use decreased for both drivers (from 91.6 percent to 91.5 percent) and passengers (from 91.0 percent to 90.3 percent). Generally, observed seat belt use has changed only slightly during the past five years, remaining very close to 90 percent.”

The seat belt laws of North Carolina

It is mandatory for people of all ages to use seat belts when riding in a car in North Carolina, according to N.C.G.S. 20-135.2A. Passengers under the age of 16 are covered under the North Carolina child passenger safety law.

Seat belts must also be worn appropriately, which means the shoulder and lap belts must be affixed correctly on the body even if there is an automatic seat belt position system in the vehicle. The driver is responsible for themselves and for all passengers who are under the age of 16. All passengers 16 and older are responsible for themselves.

How seat belts save lives

  • The risk of dying in an accident drops by 45% if you wear a seat belt;
  • Wearing a seat belt helps reduce the risk of suffering moderate to critical injuries by roughly 50%;
  • In 2016, almost half of all teenagers and adults who died in crashes did not have their seat belts on when the accident happened;
  • There were 2,456 deaths in the United States in 2016 who died because they were not wearing seat belts; and
  • In 2017, there were an estimated 14,955 people saved because of seat belt use in the country, according to the NHTSA.

What is the seat belt defense?

If you are injured in an accident that was not your fault and you weren’t wearing a seat belt, can you still recover damages? An insurance company or attorney for a defendant (if you filed a lawsuit) will argue that you suffered your injuries, or they are more serious, because you failed to wear your seat belt.

Despite this, the seat belt defense is not permitted in North Carolina under N.C.G.S. 20-135.2A. Section D of the statute  says the following:

“Evidence of failure to wear a seat belt shall not be admissible in any criminal or civil trial, action, or proceeding except in an action based on a violation of this section or as justification for the stop of a vehicle or detention of a vehicle operator and passengers.”

This means that you can still collect damages for injuries suffered in a Charlotte car accident caused by another driver even if you were not wearing your seat belt. The other driver’s insurance company must pay fair compensation for your injuries.

Seat belts keep us safer, but you can still be hurt even while wearing one. If you are, the Charlotte car accident lawyers of Warren & Kallianos, PLLC can help. Call our office at 704-377-7777 or complete the contact form on our website to schedule a consultation.