West Virginia the "most improved" state for traffic safety

When you get into a car, whether as a driver or as a passenger, do you make sure your seatbelt is buckled before you hit the road?

If you answered yes, then congratulations - you've joined the vast majority of West Virginians in taking the most effective step toward protecting yourself against serious injury or death in the event of a car accident. According to a 2013 survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 84 percent of West Virginians use their seatbelts.

However, our state's motorists haven't always been so focused on safety. In the same survey in 2001, just 52 percent of West Virginians said they wore a seatbelt. This dramatic increase in seat belt use has earned West Virginia the distinction of being recognized as the "most improved state" in the U.S. when it comes to traffic safety.

As a result, the number of statewide traffic fatalities has declined significantly. In 2000, car accidents killed 411 people in West Virginia. By 2013, that number had fallen almost 20 percent to 332 traffic deaths.

Improvement attributed to new safety laws

Much of the improvement is credited to West Virginia lawmakers' decision to move from secondary to primary enforcement of seatbelt laws. Primary enforcement means that police officers can pull someone over for not wearing a seatbelt, even if the driver isn't speeding or disobeying any other traffic laws. Secondary enforcement means that some other driving violation must be observed before police can issue a ticket for failing to wear a seatbelt.

This change in the law laid the groundwork for a seatbelt campaign called "Click it or Ticket." This program focuses on both enforcement and education. It encourages police officers to issue tickets to people not wearing seatbelts, while also providing resources to educate the public on the importance of buckling up.

In addition to increased seat belt usage, officials also attribute West Virginia's decline in traffic fatalities to the state's new distracted driving law. That law prohibits drivers from using handheld cellphones or other electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle. Distracted driving has routinely been shown to be one of the behaviors most correlated with causing a serious motor vehicle accident.

Protecting your rights after an accident

While buckling up and staying focused on driving can go a long way toward keeping you and your loved ones safe, it is unfortunately impossible to completely protect yourself from other negligent drivers. No matter how safe of a driver you are, there is always some risk that another person could cause you to be involved in a serious car accident.

When accidents happen, it is important for injured victims to take steps to protect their rights. West Virginia law allows those who have been injured as a result of another person's negligence to seek financial compensation for losses including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a serious car accident, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Cyrus & Adkins can help you start to set things right.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:Do I have to pay for hiring experts, depositions, and other expenses of getting my case to trial?

A:At Cyrus & Adkins, we will advance all costs necessary for the development and presentation of your case. In the event of a successful recovery, whether by settlement or verdict, these necessary costs and expenses are reimbursable to our firm.