In many of the serious auto accidents that Atlanta car accident lawyers come across, seatbelt use was the only thing preventing devastating injuries or death. However, there is one category of drivers that is most aware of the importance of wearing seatbelts to avoid accidents, but neglect to wear seatbelts anyway. According to a new study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at least 42% of police officers, who were killed in auto accidents over the past 28 years, were not wearing seat belts at the time.
The NHTSA study analyzed 733 fatal police auto accidents from 1980 through 2008, and found that more than 42% of the officers during these auto accidents were not wearing seat belts. Across the country, there have been concerns about low seatbelt usage rates among police officers. In Georgia too, we have a similar situation, and to a lay person, it can be quite perplexing. After all, officers don’t neglect to pull a motorist over when they find seatbelt violations, and it seems odd that they don’t obey laws they help enforce.
Many police departments are aware of this low seatbelt usage rate, and condone it because wearing seat belts can interfere with certain aspects of a police officer’s responsibilities. While officers are expected to wear seat belts during a patrol or when they are responding to a scene of a crime, they may begin unbuckling when the pursuit is winding down, or when there is a need for them to get out of the car and pursue a suspect.
Unfortunately, this has meant more numbers of police officers being killed in auto accidents because they are not wearing a seatbelt. In fact, auto accidents are a major source of death among law-enforcement officers, second only to gunfire. In Georgia, 43 officers were killed during the study period, due to failure to wear seat belts – the highest number of auto accident fatalities involving law enforcement personnel in the United States.