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Researchers urge seat belt use for children

When Governor Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 2724 into law on April 5, Mississippi became the 29th state to require all passenger vehicle occupants to fasten theirs safety belts. Front seat passengers and children were already required to buckle up, but research from Harvard University and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center suggests that drivers routinely ignore the law and police officers in the state could do more to enforce it.

The researchers studied fatal accident data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and they found that one in five of the 2,885 children under the age of 15 who were killed on the nation's roads between 2010 and 2014 were not properly restrained. A further 13 percent were improperly seated in front passenger seats. Idaho and Mississippi, despite its seat belt law, were the states where children were most likely to die in car accidents, according to the study.

The research, which was published in the "Journal of Pediatrics," also found that most of the accidents that claimed the lives of children occurred at speeds of between 45 and 60 mph. The Northeast emerged as the safest part of the country for children to travel by car, and southern states were found to be the most dangerous.

In addition to increasing the chances of serious injury or death in a crash, not wearing a seat belt can reduce the amount of damages awarded in car accident lawsuits. This is because the defendants in these lawsuits may argue that the plaintiffs would have been less seriously hurt or escaped injury completely had they been properly restrained. Personal injury attorneys may prepare for comparative negligence arguments in these situations.

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