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Debunking trucker myths about safety of not wearing seatbelts

Written by Steve Gursten Posted February 10th, 2017

Science shows seat belts save truck drivers’ lives. Our own attorneys have seen the difference they make in the cases we handle for injured truck drivers. So why isn’t everyone strapped in?

Commercial truck drivers need to wear seat belts when they’re on the road.

Not only is it the law, but it’s the best, most scientifically-proven way to stay safe in the event of a truck accident.

So why, despite the law and the science – not to mention common sense – are some commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers stubbornly refusing to get strapped in?

How dangerous is it for truckers who don’t wear seat belts?

According to the FMCSA, 703 drivers of large trucks died in truck crashes in 2006 and 314 of those drivers were not wearing safety belts. Similarly, if the 188 drivers killed who were ejected from their vehicles, almost 80% were not wearing safety belts.

Even worse, the CDC reported 1 in 6 truck drivers did not wear their seatbelts in 2015. The CDC also reported that 40% of truck drivers and passengers killed in 2012 could have avoided death if they had buckled up.

Another study conducted by the CDC that year showed that truckers who tend to go seatbelt-less also tend to drive faster and accrue more moving violations than those who wear seatbelts.

Last summer, the FMCSA made it a requirement for passengers riding in large commercial trucks to wear a seatbelt whenever the vehicle they occupy is being operated. This ruling stemmed from the FMCSA learning that truck passengers wore seatbelts 11% less than CMV drivers.

Additionally, the FMCSA considered data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which showed one-third of all truck passengers killed in 2014 were ejected from the truck cab, a situation which could have been prevented if they’d been wearing seatbelts.

Seatbelts: Myth vs. Fact

Below are some of the FMCSA’s statements debunking the long-standing, widely-spread seatbelt myths. To learn more about these trucker myths – and the facts that dispel them – please clicking here.

MYTH: Wearing a safety belt is a personal decision that doesn’t affect anyone else.

FACT: Not wearing a safety belt can certainly affect your family and loved ones. It can also affect other motorists since wearing a safety belt can help you avoid losing control of your truck in a crash. Plus, it’s the law: Federal regulations require commercial vehicle drivers to buckle up.

MYTH: Safety belts prevent your escape from a burning or submerged vehicle.

FACT: Safety belts can keep you from being knocked unconscious, improving your chances of escape. Fire or submersion occurs in less than 5% of fatal, large-truck crashes.

MYTH: It’s better to be thrown clear of the wreckage in the event of a crash.

FACT: An occupant of a vehicle is four times as likely to be fatally injured when thrown from the vehicle. In 2006, 217 truck occupants and drivers died when they were ejected from their cabs during a crash.

MYTH: A large truck will protect you. Safety belts are unnecessary.

FACT: In 2006, 805 drivers and occupants of large trucks died in truck crashes and 393 of them were not wearing safety belts. Of the 217 drivers and occupants who were killed and ejected from their vehicles, almost 81% were not wearing safety belts.

MYTH: Safety belts aren’t necessary for low-speed driving.

FACT: In a frontal collision occurring at 30 mph, an unbelted person continues to move forward at 30 mph causing him/her to hit the windshield at about 30 mph. This is the same velocity a person falling from the top of a three story building would experience upon impact with the ground.

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.