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Click It or Ticket: Everything You Need to Know About Michigan Seat Belt Laws

Click It or Ticket: Everything You Need to Know About Michigan Seat Belt Laws

In a recent article, we discussed the history, value and importance of airbags in saving lives and reducing serious injuries from car crashes. This week, we’ll take a closer look at possibly the greatest of all car safety innovations – seat belts – which have been credited with preventing more than a million traffic-related deaths since their invention over a century ago.

A Brief History of These Life-Saving Devices

Way back in 1885, the first U.S. patent was issued for an automotive seat belt, according to AAA. This groundbreaking invention by Edward Claghorn was intended to help protect tourists traveling by taxi in the Big Apple. The idea took hold and, in later years seat, belts became available on cars — first as optional equipment (starting with the 1949 Nash) and then as a mandatory requirement on all U.S. vehicles, beginning in 1968. In the meantime, Swedish inventor Nils Bohlin had developed the three-point lap-and-shoulder seat belt for Volvo vehicles in 1959 – a vastly improved design that persists to this very day.

Seat Belts Ultimately Became the Law of the Land (Almost)

In the years that followed, nearly every state across America enacted mandatory seat belt laws requiring drivers (and later passengers) to buckle up when driving. In 1961, Wisconsin became the first state to jump on the seat belt bandwagon. In the following years, all other states have followed suit except for one… New Hampshire – which proudly (and perhaps ironically) proclaims “Live Free or Die” on its license plates – is the sole state that doesn’t yet legally require adult drivers and passengers to buckle up.

Not surprisingly, some drivers in other states including Michigan continue to flout the seat belt law, and the outcome is not always positive. In fact, 2021 saw the highest number of fatal accidents in recent memory as nearly 43,000 people nationwide died in motor vehicle-related crashes. This is almost as high as the annual fatality rate before seat belts became required by law! Experts attribute this number to drivers not wearing seat belts, which can result in drivers and passengers being ejected from motor vehicles and being thrown against immovable objects like trees or buildings, forced into their car’s quickly inflating airbag, or crushed underneath their own vehicles in rollover accidents. Michigan’s Office of Highway Safety Planning reminds drivers that airbags are designed to work with seat belts, so drivers shouldn’t depend upon an airbag alone to protect them during a crash. In short, always buckle up even if your car is equipped with every imaginable kind of airbag.

So, What’s the Current Seat Belt Law in Michigan?

It became a legal requirement to “click it or ticket” in Michigan all the way back in 1985. Today, if you’re in the front seat of a vehicle – whether as a driver or as a passenger – Michigan law requires you to buckle up, or risk getting a $65 ticket. You’re also legally responsible for ensuring that any passengers between the ages of 8-15 are belted in, regardless of where they’re sitting. And younger children must be secured in approved child car seats or boosters at all times (preferably in rear seats as we spelled out in an article published here last year). Since 2000, Michigan law also considers not wearing a seat belt to be a primary offense, meaning police officers are empowered to pull you over solely for not being buckled in unless you’re riding in a bus, or an antique vehicle manufactured before January 1, 1965.

Here’s Why You Should Obey That Law

As personal injury attorneys, we always encourage everyone we know to follow the rules of the road, especially laws related to traffic safety. It’s just the responsible, ethical thing to do. Beyond that, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that while more than 90 percent of drivers did use their seat belts last year, tens of thousands of tragic, accident-related deaths occurred. And among those who died, more than 50 percent were not buckled up. You do the math — it simply makes sense to use your seat belt. It can reduce your risk of dying in a crash by nearly half (even more if you’re in a pickup truck), and also protects you from being seriously injured and living with pain and suffering for the rest of your life. That’s something we don’t even want to contemplate… but that we see all too often in this line of work.

Buckle Up… and Memorize Our Phone Number to Stay Safe!

There’s no excuse to get into a car without putting on your seat belt. However, there’s always the possibility that a seat belt will fail to function as intended, or that you’ll be a passenger in a vehicle where safety restraints haven’t been properly maintained. If you’re ever injured as a result of either of those situations – or due to someone’s bad actions or negligence – we’re just a phone call away. It’s an easy number to remember: 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946). Or feel free to click here as well (but, if you’re in the car, not until after you’ve clicked that crucial seat belt buckle)!