Did you know that America had over 4,000,000 miles of roadway? This incredible expanse of concrete and asphalt is the site of over 5.5 million crashes annually, resulting in more than 33,000 fatalities on average and 2.3 million injuries, at an economic cost to society in excess of $230 billion. Here’s a sobering statistic: every day over 90 people are killed on America’s streets and highways, and almost 6500 are injured. It is certainly not an exaggeration to call this problem a public health epidemic.

Here are some key facts that you may not know. Motor vehicle fatalities increased from 2011 to 2012 – the first annual increase in motor vehicle fatalities after six consecutive years of decline. Automobile crashes remain the leading cause of death for Americans between the age of 5 and 24, and 33,561 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2012. This marked an increase of 3.3% from 2011.  More than half (52%) of passenger vehicle occupants killed were unrestrained. Crashes involving teen drivers resulted in 4640 fatalities in 2012. A total of 4957 motorcyclists died in 2012, accounting for 15% of all fatalities. The human cost is not limited to fatalities – an estimated 2.3 6 million people were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2012.  A study by the American Automobile Association in 2011 reported that the annual cost of motor vehicle crashes in urbanized areas alone was nearly $300 billion. The annual economic cost of motor vehicle crashes to New Jersey was estimated at $9.336 billion, while Pennsylvania accounted for 8.170 billion.

Seat belt use, reinforced by effective safety laws, is a proven lifesaver. States with primary enforcement laws have higher seat belt use rates, and a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that when states strengthen their laws from secondary to primary enforcement, driver death rates decline by an estimated 7%. All states except New Hampshire have a seat belt use law, but only 33 states and the District of Columbia allow primary enforcement of their front seatbelt laws. Among states that have primary enforcement seatbelt laws, only 17 and the District of Columbia cover occupants in all seating positions (front and rear).

Lap – shoulder belts, when used, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat car occupants by 45% and the risk of moderate- to- critical injuries by 50%. Seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by 60% and moderate- to- critical injury by 65% for light truck occupants. The national Highway traffic safety administration data shows that nationwide seatbelts save an estimated 12,174 lives age 5 and older.

The moral of the story is clear: seatbelts save lives. Always buckle up, and never allow an occupant in your vehicle to remain unbelted. It could mean the difference between life and death. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, call Stark & Stark today at 1.800.53.Legal or online.