A Daytona Beach teenager was critically injured yesterday when he lost control of his SUV on Interstate 95 near Scottsmoor, Florida and was ejected from the vehicle. The driver was cited by Florida Highway Patrol earlier in the day for his failure to wear his seat belt.
Florida Statute Section 316.614 requires the operator of a motor vehicle in Florida to wear a seat belt. It also requires front seat passengers to wear a safety belt or be restrained by a child safety device. Recent amendments to Section 316.614 allow law enforcement officers to stop a vehicle based solely on the driver's or front seat passenger's failure to wear a seat belt. Prior to the amendment, police could only stop a vehicle if the officer suspected some other traffic or license violation. The cost of a seat belt violation in Florida is $30. The cost of a violation for a child that is not properly restrained in $60.
In addition to incurring fines and points on your license, you may also negatively impact your personal injury case when you don't wear a seat belt. If warranted, a defendant in an automobile negligence action can assert the "seatbelt belt defense". The Florida Supreme Court has described the seatbelt defense as "an attempt to prove that the non-use of a functional and available restraint system by the plaintiff either caused or measurably worsened the plaintiff's injuries that resulted from the defendant's actions, and based on that non-use (even though the non-use preceded and did not cause or contribute to the accident), the plaintiff's recoverable damages should be barred or reduced." In other words, if a jury finds that you would not have sustained some or all of your injuries if you had been wearing your seat belt, your damages may be reduced or even eliminated.
What is the most important reason to wear a seat belt? You are much more likely to be killed in a car crash when you are not wearing a seat belt. Wearing your seat belt could save your life or the life of a loved one.