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When a vehicle comes to a sudden stop, such as during a truck collision or car accident, anyone occupying the vehicle could hit the dashboard, fly into the windshield, or even be ejected from the car. Thankfully, there is a device that can help protect both the driver and any passengers of a car crash: a seat belt.
Seat belts have saved countless lives since the 1950s, when they gained popularity in the United States. These restraints are one of the most effective methods of reducing injuries and saving lives during automobile accidents, so all passenger vehicle occupants should wear the appropriate seat belt or restraint system for their age, height, and weight at all times.
However, in the state of Indiana, wearing a seat belt isn’t just a safety precaution—it’s also a matter of law.
Under Indiana law, as outlined in Indiana Code 9-19-10, all occupants of a motor vehicle over the age of 16 must wear a seat belt when the car is in forward motion.
This law applies to both drivers and passengers, wherever they are seated in the vehicle. Guidelines for children are even more restrictive. There are some exceptions to Indiana seat belt laws, but in general, all vehicle occupants must be buckled.
This law applies to all occupants, whether they are in the front seat or the back seat of the car.
All child passengers under the age of 8 in Indiana must use a child restraint system. Additional Indiana child car seat laws are based on age, height, and weight, and they include the following provisions:
Child safety devices must be installed properly and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Adults or children who have a medical certificate from a doctor stating that it would be impractical for them to be restrained due to a physical or mental condition are exempted from Indiana seat belt laws. Occupants with medical reasons for not using a safety restraint must have written documentation.
Other exemptions include but are not limited to occupants of a motor vehicle who meet any of the following conditions:
For a complete list of seat belt law exemptions, see Indiana Code 9-19-10-1.
In Indiana, seat belt violations are primary offenses, meaning that you can be pulled over by law enforcement solely to determine whether you are wearing a seat belt.
If you or anyone in your vehicle is not in compliance with Indiana seat belt laws, you can get a ticket for a Class D infraction, and although this violation will not add points to your driving record, you could get a $25 fine (for a first offense). If any child in your vehicle is not restrained according to their height, weight, and age, you could be similarly fined.
Unfortunately, the consequences of not wearing a seat belt are not limited to tickets and fines. The worst outcome is an injury or the loss of life.
Even with the introduction of safety technology (air bags, lane assist, emergency braking, etc.), the seat belt is still the most effective and easiest way to improve occupant safety in passenger cars.
The Centers for Disease Control collects statistical data concerning seat belt use across the United States. Some of the more startling facts are that seat belts reduced serious crash-related injuries and fatalities by about 50 percent and saved almost 15,000 lives in 2016.
According to the Indiana Highway Safety Plan, approximately 52 percent of Indiana drivers killed in 2015 were not wearing a seat belt. Unrestrained drivers were 14 times more likely to be killed than restrained drivers.
Additionally, of the fatalities in 2015, 39% of occupants in the front passenger seat and 70% of occupants in rear seating were not wearing a seat belt.
These statistics highlight the dangers of not wearing seat belts—no matter where an occupant is sitting in the vehicle.
In some states, not wearing a seat belt can be used against car accident victims in order to claim contributory negligence. This argument is commonly known as the “seat belt defense.”
Insurance companies in states that allow for the seat belt defense can claim that the failure of victims to wear a seat belt contributed to the severity of their injuries and therefore could justify providing less compensation.
Indiana does not allow for the seat belt defense. The lack of seat belt use cannot be used to establish negligence or partial fault in Indiana car accident cases.
However, for product liability litigation involving a motor vehicle safety restraint system, evidence of seat belt use can be admitted. Consult with an experienced lawyer for further clarification.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, contact the Indianapolis Car Accident Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you and your family fight for the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
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