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The importance of wearing a seat belt

Motor vehicles are made of tons of metal and plastic that travel at incredible speeds with only four brake pads to stop them. Such a description would make most people think twice before getting behind the wheel of a car, but car makers have been improving the safety features of their vehicles as much as they have the horse power or gas mileage. But, not all safety features are automatic, and one of the most important ones, the safety belt, can be put on or taken off with the click of a button.

All states have a law on the books involving the safety belts on motor vehicles. In Missouri, the seat belt laws play an important role in not only the safety of those in a vehicle, but also in the award of damages in the event of a car accident.

In Missouri, drivers are responsible for making sure all passengers under the age of 16 are safely buckled up. Those who are over the age of 16 must be buckled up if they are riding in the front of the vehicles. If the person operating the vehicle is driving on a permit or intermediate license, everyone in the car including the driver, must be buckled up.

While not wearing a seat belt can violate the law, it cannot be used as evidence of comparative negligence in a civil case. But a seat belt violation can be used to mitigate any award damages. In order to mitigate damages it must be proven that the failure to wear a seat belt contributed to injuries. Once such a determination is made, the plaintiff's recovery can be reduced by no more than 1 percent of the post-comparative negligence award.

Source: Missouri Revised Statutes, "Chapter 307," Accessed Sept. 30, 2014

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