The Risks of Not Buckling Up and Famous Cases of Those Who Paid the Price
Sadly, over 33,000 people die in car accidents each year, and a major contributing factor to fatalities in these wrecks is failure to wear a seatbelt. The risk of being killed in an auto accident is estimated to be 45-60% higher when you are not wearing a seatbelt than when you are properly buckled up. These numbers are supported by a study released recently.
In particular, backseat passenger deaths are on the rise, as more and more people are taking advantage of ridesharing and chauffeuring services than ever before. Conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association, the study documents 803 rear-seat passenger deaths where the victims were not wearing seatbelts and asserted that over half of them would have survived had they been buckled. Over 400 lives could have been saved, and countless more would not have suffered the devastation of needlessly losing their loved ones.
Conventional wisdom for many years was that you were safer if you were “thrown out” of a car upon impact, rather than strapped in with your belt. There was fear of being trapped in the car by the belt especially in the event of a water crash or if the car caught fire. Instances like these were statistically rare, but the paranoia around a few sensational stories spread like wildfire. In addition to these anxieties, there was an element of glamour to riding unsecured. As late as the 1960’s race car drivers were still not all using safety belts, and there was a frequently repeated sentiment that “if the race car drivers don’t do it, why should I?”
Over the next couple of decades, and many needless fatalities later, public opinion finally changed. Between 1984 and 1995, every state except New Hampshire instituted seat belt requirement laws. Always buckling up (no matter the length of the trip, your position in the car, or who is driving) is the best thing you can do to help stay safe. If you do suffer an accident, know that you can reach out to Thompson Law anytime for assistance with your event.
Celebrity Deaths from Not Wearing a Seatbelt
Tragically, a great number of famous and beloved stars have been killed in auto accidents. Many of these fatalities were attributed to seatbelts not being worn. Despite these high-profile cases of needless fatality, people continue to ride without buckling up every day, with terrible consequences.
John Nash & Alicia Nash
People often act as though riding in the back of a taxi or rideshare like Uber or Lyft is safer than riding in a regular car. Ride services mean you are not driving drunk, and you’re being couriered by a professional driver. In fact, similar possibilities for accident and injury exist in these cars like in any other. It is critical to always buckle up – even in the backseat, even for a short trip, and even when driven by a professional.
A famous case that brought a lot of attention to this issue was the death of renowned Princeton Professor, John Nash, and his wife, Alicia Nash. A couple of A Beautiful Mind fame was killed during a cab ride in 2015 when the driver lost control on the New Jersey turnpike, ejecting them from the car. The results of the crash may have been far less tragic had they been wearing seatbelts at the time.
John Nash, the 1994 Nobel Prize winner in Economics and famed mathematician, was well known for his work on game theory and as senior research mathematician for decades at Princeton University (alma mater of Thompson Law CEO, Zack Thompson, incidentally). Alicia was an MIT physics graduate, famous for her role as wife and caretaker of John through his struggles with schizophrenia and an important figure in the Princeton community in her own right. Their deaths were a devastating loss to the academic community and many more.
Stars & Seatbelt Use
If one tragic example does not say it all, a very abridged list of other famous fatalities since 1955 that were all caused in full or in part by not using a seatbelt includes:
- Joey Marella – While driving home from refereeing a WWF match, Marella fell asleep at the wheel and was killed. He was not wearing a seatbelt, but the passenger with him was buckled and sustained serious injuries but survived the event.
- Cozy Powell – Whitesnake drummer Cozy Powell was driving home drunk, without a seatbelt and talking on his cellphone. This triple threat of dangerous behavior resulted in the crash that killed him on a Bristol, England motorway in 1998.
- Bob Simon – American journalist Bob Simon died while being chauffeured in the back of a Lincoln Town Car in New York, NY. His driver lost control and struck another car. Rescue workers managed to retrieve Simon through the roof of the car, but tragically he died in the hospital of the injuries he sustained in the crash: head trauma and a broken neck.
- Ryan Bennett – Sportscaster of MMA fame, Ryan Bennett was killed in an accident in a Ford Expedition in Fillmore, Utah. Despite wearing a seatbelt, he was still ejected from the car after it rolled down the I-15 median 5 times, leading some to suspect that his belt was not properly secured.
- Herb Brooks – Famous hockey coach of the 1980 US Olympic Gold Medal team, Brooks was not wearing a seatbelt when he crashed in Minnesota. He was believed to have fallen asleep at the wheel while driving on Interstate 35.
- Rob Collins – English musician, and keyboardist of alt-rock group, The Charlatans, Collins was driving drunk and not wearing a seat belt when he fatally crashed his car in Wales, UK.
- Brandon de Wilde – Famed child-star and actor from the mid-century, de Wilde died tragically when the camper van he was driving struck a guardrail and another vehicle. He was not wearing a seatbelt, and so became wedged in the wreckage as the camper tipped over. He died in the hospital of the injuries sustained in the crash shortly thereafter.
- Justin Mentell – Justin Mentell, actor most widely known for his role on Boston Legal, was killed in Mineral Point, Wisconsin when his Jeep swerved off the road, hitting trees and killing him on impact. Mentell was not wearing his seatbelt when it is suspected that he fell asleep at the wheel.
- Rich Mullins – Mullins died tragically at the age of 41 when he suffered an accident in Bloomington, Illinois. The Christian music star and his friend were traveling in his jeep when the car rolled over. Both passengers were ejected due to their lack of seatbelts. Mullins landed in the road, and with severe injuries was unable to move out of the way of an oncoming truck. The truck could not swerve aside in time either and struck Mullins, killing him instantly.
- Fran Papasadero – Papasadero was killed in Orlando, Florida. He was ejected from his vehicle while the car rolled over four times. He was not wearing a seatbelt, and died at the age of 34, bringing his football coaching career to a premature and tragic end.
- Cliff Burton – Metallica’s base guitarist, Burton died tragically in a tour bus crash on the band’s first major European tour. Like many riders in tour buses, Burton was not strapped in. Some buses are built differently to withstand crashes without the need for passenger belting, but tour buses are different, equipped with many hard surfaces and typically full of heavy equipment cases that can become dangerous projectiles in a crash.
- Brian Cole (Same as above) safety belt failure recall victim – perished in a crash in Marianna, Florida, this American baseball player was only 22 years old at the time of his death.
- James Dean – Dean’s speeding-related crash fatality occurred in his famous and brand-new, Porsche, nicknamed “Little Bastard.” He lost control when another car crossed in front of him, ejecting his passenger and crushing him upon impact. The crash was highly influential in improving popular opinion of seatbelts because experts proved that he likely would have survived the crash had he been buckled up at the time.
- Jayne Mansfield – Along with two other passengers not wearing seat belts in the front seat of a Buick Electra, Mansfield suffered a traumatic brain injury and died instantly upon impact. Remarkably, her three children in the backseat (including daughter Mariska Hargitay) were unscathed.
Injuries from Not Wearing a Seatbelt in an Accident
While it is possible to sustain some injuries from your seatbelt itself in the event of an accident, these pale in comparison to the injuries you may face without your seatbelt on. If you are unrestrained at the time of impact, you can actually become a projectile object, flying through your windshield or hitting hard surfaces in your car, resulting in injuries and consequences like:
Severe Cuts and Bruises
Sprains, Strains, and Broken Bones
What to do in an Accident
When people involved in an accident have not been wearing their seatbelts, injuries on the scene can be particularly severe, so be sure to involve the proper authorities. Call 911 for emergency police, ambulance or fire response. Doing so can be critical to saving lives and preventing further injury. After emergency professionals have arrived on the scene be sure to thoroughly cooperate with their instructions. Use the following list to gather important information about the event:
Personal ID’s – owner, drivers, passengers, witnesses
Property ID’s – plate numbers, insurance info, registration info, location info
Photograph – take pictures of the vehicles involved, the accident site and the damage. Extra pictures of anything notable about the scene can be extremely helpful in understanding all the details of the event.
Police – for emergencies call 911, for non–emergencies call the local police department. When emergency personnel arrive, cooperate fully with their instructions as they generate an accident report.
Proceed – Take care of departing the scene! Follow the instructions provided to you by emergency professionals. Gather the police report information when available. Call Lion Law(link) for legal assistance and representation.
Protect – Protect your rights and interests by calling Thompson Law at 844-308-8180 as soon as you are able to follow the accident.
If you noted that anyone was not wearing their seatbelt, tell your Thompson Law attorney for advice. Sharing this accurate information with your Thompson Law advisors can make a critical impact on the outcome of your case!
Call Thompson Law After an Accident
The safety benefit we experience in choosing to buckle up is really unparalleled. Always make the right choice when you get in the car, whether the front seat or back, and fasten your seatbelt. Not only will this keep you safer, but it will model this behavior and remind others in the car to do the same, so you all stay safe in the event of a collision.
If you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of your accident, this does potentially impact the determination of your percentage of fault in the event. To best protect your interests in your case, hire an expert personal injury attorney. Your attorney can fully assess all the details of your circumstances and guide your claim for your very best result.
If you have been in an auto accident, especially one with seat belt related complications such as unbuckled participates or injuries sustained from seatbelt failure, you deserve help and compensation for your ordeal. Reach out to Thompson Law anytime 24/7/365. Our expert legal team is standing by to help you with your questions and provide a free consultation for your claim. Buckle up, stay safe, and if you need help, don’t hesitate to call us anytime.