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Research provides more evidence of seat belt safety benefits

The seat belt laws in West Virginia are among the most lenient in the nation, and police officers in the Mountain State are only able to ticket drivers for not being properly restrained after pulling them over for another motor vehicle violation. Road safety advocates have called for every state to pass primary seat belt laws for both front and rear seat passengers, and research published recently in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health provides yet more evidence about the safety benefits of buckling up before every trip.

It is well established that seat belts can prevent serious head injuries and save lives, but the researchers wanted to find out what kind of protection they provide vehicle occupants against serious liver damage. The spleen and liver are the organs most often injured in car accidents; liver injuries are of particular concern because the liver is crucial for life and, unlike the spleen, cannot be removed.

The study was based on figures from the National Trauma Data Bank, which revealed that seat belts greatly reduce the chances of suffering a severe liver injury in a crash. This is important because the data also shows that vehicle occupants who suffer this kind of injury die almost twice as often as accident victims who suffer minor or moderate liver damage.

Accident victims who were not properly restrained may believe that their negligence precludes them from pursuing civil remedies. Experienced personal injury attorneys may explain that comparative negligence laws may allow damages to be awarded in car accident cases as long as plaintiffs are not more than 50 percent to blame. Attorneys might call upon experts to establish that their clients would have been severely injured even with their seat belts fastened.

Source: The National Conference of State Legislatures, State Seat Belt LawsSource: The West Virginia Legislature, Actions for Juries

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