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Officers Unbelted in 42 Percent of Fatal Police Car Wrecks

While police officers are often tasked with citing drivers for failure to wear a seat belt, a new study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that officers were not wearing a seat belt in 42 percent of fatal car accidents. According to federal numbers, car accidents are the leading cause of death for police officers throughout the country.

In reaching this conclusion, the NHTSA studied 733 car accidents from 1980 to 2008. Texas ranks second in the nation for fatal car police officer car accidents during this time period with 81 fatal accidents. Texas ranked second only to California, which led the nation with 107 fatal car crashes involving police officers.

The USA Today reports that many officers complain that seat belt use infringes on their ability to quickly respond to a situation or that their gear, such as a gun or taser, can become tangled in the seat belt restraint.

The NHTSA study found that officer seat belt use increased in the 1990s from a low of approximately 28 percent in the 1980s. The problem is that in recent years, officers' use of some sort of a seat restraint has declined from 56 percent to 50 percent. It isn't clear whether the decrease in seat belt use directly contributed to the high number of line-of-duty deaths last year, but it is known that 2010 line-of-duty deaths increased by 37 percent throughout the U.S. after two years of steady declines.

Seat Belt Use Increases Survival Chances in a Car Accident

Seat belt use has been shown to provide car drivers and passengers with significant safety benefits in the event of a car accident. The Department of Transportation, among other transportation agencies, has completed numerous studies about the importance of seat belt use. One DOT study showed those who were unbelted were 30 times more likely to be thrown from the car, which results in a 28 times greater chance of catastrophic injury or death.

A study by the University of Washington echoed the significantly greater chances of survival for car drivers and passengers who chose to use the restraint - wearing a lap belt and a shoulder restraint decreases the chance of death in a car wreck by a whopping 86 percent.

Whether a police officer, a passenger, a commercial truck driver or a car driver, it is important to always wear the proper seat belt restraint to protect from serious injuries in a car accident.

Related Resource: USA Today "No Seat Belts in 42% of Fatal Police Car Crashes"

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