Last Sunday in Lakeland, Florida, a three-car wreck left two dead and two more hospitalized. According to the Polk County Sheriffs office, at approximately 3:15 that Sunday morning, Eric Russo, 19, was driving his Scion southbound on US 98 near Big Cypress Boulevard. While using the left lane in an attempt to pass another vehicle, he saw a Ford Mustang traveling towards him from the opposite direction. As he tried to get back into the right lane, he struck a Cadillac Escalade and quickly lost control of his vehicle and spun back into the lane of the oncoming Mustang. 17-year-old Jessica Carroll was driving the Mustang that crashed into Russo’s Scion. Carroll had been driving with two passengers, Rex Brinker, 40, and Charles Parker, 28. Unfortunately, Parker and Russo both passed away at the scene of the accident and Carroll and Brinker were both taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center. While the crash is still under investigation it has been determined the Parker had not been wearing his seat belt.
While there are several factors that could have been to blame for this deadly wreck, one factor that could have had an effect on the outcome was the lack of a seat belt by at least one passenger. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts are the single most effective traffic safety device for preventing death and injury and wearing a seat belt can reduce the risk of crash injuries by 50 percent. Furthermore, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also reports that in four years, seat belts saved more than 75,000 lives and forty-two percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2007 were unbelted.
With such convincing statistical data, why do some still refuse to buckle up every trip? As an educational outlet, Oklahoma State University published a series of reasons that discourage drivers and passengers from wearing a safety belt. OSU listed duration of the trip, over-confidence in ones own driving experience, the fear that a seat belt will actually cause someone to be trapped inside the vehicle, discomfort, and the reliance on the deployment of an airbag as the main reasons people do not use a seat belt. Statistically, approximately 80% of traffic fatalities occur within 25 miles of home, it is safer to be trapped in the vehicle than to be thrown from it, and airbags actually increase the effectiveness of seatbelts by 40% but are not meant to be used in place of them.
Currently, 49 of our 50 states have a seat belt law in place. In Florida, the driver, any passengers in the front seat, and any passengers under the age of 18 of cars, pickup trucks, and vans must wear a seat belt. For an unrestrained adult, the fine is thirty dollars and for any minor, the fine goes up to sixty dollars.
It is important that we remember that the safety belt law is in place at all times and we should be wearing a seat belt every time we operate or ride in a motor vehicle. While wearing a seat belt significantly reduces the chances of death or serious injury, not all injuries can be avoided. If you have been injured in a collision, let the experienced and skilled attorneys at Dolman Law Group help you get the compensation that you deserve. Give us a call today for a no cost no obligation consultation at your convenience. (727) 451-6900.