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Seat belts thought to be key in reducing traffic deaths in 2013 in WV

Improving traffic safety is a constant concern for traffic safety advocates, lawmakers and state and federal agencies, and a variety of approaches to the problem have been tried. While there is surely no silver bullet, stricter seat belt laws may be a significant way for states to improve highway safety. In West Virginia, for instance, a stricter seal belt law may have been critical in reducing traffic deaths in 2014.

As of the first day of the New Year, the official tally of traffic deaths for 2014, though not complete, was expected to be roughly 70 deaths fewer than in 2013. According to a spokesman from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, the most likely reason for the change was a law implemented in the summer of 2013 which allows law enforcement officers to cite motorists for failure to wear a seatbelt without any other offenses having been witnessed. Another contributing factor to the decrease may be a similar approach to enforcing distracted driving laws pertaining to cell phone use. 

We have recently been speaking on this blog about comparative negligence as it relates to distracted walking and distracted driving. As we’ve noted, those who fail to exercise reasonable care through distraction—whether from use of a cell phone or some other activity—may have their damages award reduced to the extent of their own liability or—if they are found to be enough at fault—even barred altogether.

In our next post, we’ll speak a bit more about West Virginia’s seat belt law and how this may, or may not, impact comparative negligence in personal injury cases.

Source:, “Traffic deaths significantly down in West Virginia in 2014,” Jeff Jenkins, Jan 1, 2015. 

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