Seatbelts are present in every car on the market today – although the laws regarding the importance of seatbelts weren’t always so popular or even common. Decades ago, seatbelts weren’t a necessity, but rather a hindrance according to drivers and passengers who weren’t yet used to the device. However, after years of research and crash-based evidence, the seatbelt has become a crucial component of vehicles everywhere. When worn properly, seatbelts save lives in horrible car accidents. If you are unsure if you’re wearing your own seatbelt correctly, and adhering to the seatbelt laws of the United States, here are the specifics on strapping in.
Seatbelts are a requirement in nearly every state throughout the U.S. – but the laws aren’t exactly the same in each one. U.S. seatbelt laws vary dependent on the state, and failing to wear one carries different levels of punishment in different areas as well. First, New Hampshire is the only U.S. state that does not require seatbelts in a vehicle; all other 49 states do. Depending on your own state, or one that you’re visiting, not wearing your seatbelt could fall under primary or secondary enforcement. In the case of primary enforcement, a police officer can pull you over and issue a ticket if you are seen without a seatbelt. In a secondary enforcement situation, an officer can only stop you or issue a ticket for not wearing your seatbelt if you committed two violations at once – a primary violation, like speeding or running a stop sign, and the seatbelt violation.
To ensure that you don’t get caught without a seatbelt, or end up injured in an auto accident, it’s important to fasten your seatbelt correctly. Before the car begins moving, sit with your back and hips against the back of your seat. You want to rest against the seat back so that you don’t slide underneath the bottom strap of the seatbelt once it’s fastened, as this can cause entirely different injuries in an accident. Next, pull the seatbelt across your body, making sure the straps aren’t twisted or stuck, and insert the metal “tongue” into the buckle next to your hip.
Although you’re now officially buckled in, there are a few more steps to make sure the seatbelt can keep you safe. Grab the diagonal strap across your chest, pull it outward, and release it back against your body. For women, make sure to wear the seatbelt between your breasts and not on either side. This will provide the most security if an accident occurs. This eliminates any excess slack, keeping you securely in place against the seat back. If the lap strap feels too loose, you can also pull upwards on the diagonal chest strap to tighten that waist strap for added security.