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Facts about seatbelts use in Jamaica

 

INTRODUCTION
A large percentage of the accidents occurring on the roads in Jamaica result in deaths or serious injuries. This no doubt is due to factors such as poor road conditions, driver indiscipline resulting in bad driving habits and the importation of high-powered vehicles.

Similar situations occur in other highly motorized countries, and they are forced to develop and implement devices to minimize death and serious injuries resulting from road accidents.

SEAT BELT
One such device is the seat belt which, if used correctly, can reduce traffic fatalities per one thousand (1000) to one fifteenth of the level in accidents in which the occupants are not wearing seat belts (66). The effectiveness of seat belts has been proven beyond a doubt.

HOW IT WORKS
When a motor vehicle is involved in a head-on collision or subjected to an abrupt deceleration, if you are not wearing a seat belt, you could be thrown forward with such force that striking the steering wheel, dashboard or windscreen could cause death or serious injuries.

On the other hand if the body is restrained by a seat belt, an occupant of the vehicle may sustain primary injuries, which are usually minor.

It is the dynamic energy built up by the body in a moving vehicle which when stopped suddenly causes inertia to throw the body forward, and if not restrained, the secondary injuries caused by the impact can be fatal or serious.

Simply put, if you are in a vehicle going 30 MPH and it is involved in a head-on collision, if you are not wearing a seat belt, you body will continue forward at 30MPH. The serious thing, however, is that the dynamic energy built up by your body causes your weight to be increased six to seven times so that a person weighing 150 pounds will find that the weight of the body impacting on the steering wheel, dashboard or windscreen will be 1050 pounds.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE LEGISLATION

DEFINITIONS
(i) CHILD
includes any persons whose size, height or built is such that the person experiences or is likely to experience problems or difficulty with the upper anchorage point of a seat belt

(ii) CHILD RESTRAIN SYSTEM
means a seat belt, restraint system or other device or combination of devices designed to diminish the risk of injury to a child, in the event of collision or of abrupt deceleration of a vehicle, limiting the mobility of the body of the child, being a device or combination of devices which
(a) is designed either to be fixed directly to a suitable anchorage or to be used in conjunction with an adult seat belt and held in place by the restraining action of that belt, or
(b) is fitted in the vehicle by the manufacturer and is of a type which complies with such standards as may be prescribed by the Minister by regulations in respect of the shape, quality, construction, installation and assembly of seat belts and other safety belt assemblies and anchorage and child restraint systems

iii) FRONT SEAT in relation to a motor vehicle, means a seat which is wholly or partially in the front of the vehicle

iv) REAR SEAT in relation to a motor vehicle, means a seat which is wholly or partially in the rear of the vehicle

v) SEAT BELT means any arrangement or assembly of straps with a securing buckle, adjusting devices and an attachment which is anchored at a point to the structure of the seat of a motor vehicle by appropriate means and is designed to diminish the risk of injury to its wearer, in the event of collision or abrupt deceleration of the vehicle, by limiting the mobility of the body of the wearer

VEHICLES TO BE EQUIPPED WITH SEAT BELTS
Contrary to the belief that every passenger in every seat in every class of vehicle must wear a seat belt, the law sets out the vehicles that must be equipped. While the law implies that a motor vehicle shall not be used on the road unless it is equipped with seat belts, it clearly states that:

(a) Trucks constructed to carry passengers as defined by law must have seat belts on the Front Seat Only. Your vehicle’s registration will help you to know if it is a truck. For the records, trucks include buses, pick-ups and vans of a certain weight. It means therefore that the law requires only the driver and the front seat passenger in a bus, for example, to wear seat belt.

(b) Motor cars, private motor cars and invalid carriages are to be fitted with seat belts in the front seats and rear seats.
(c) Public Passenger Vehicles
(i) Stage Carriages: on the front seat only - These vehicles are usually buses.
(ii) Express Carriages: on the front seat only - These too are usually buses
(iii) Contract Carriages: except for trucks, on the front and rear seats - This class of public passenger vehicles can be either truck (buses) or cars hence the exception.
(iv) Hackney Carriages: on the front and rear seats - This class of carriages is what is referred to as taxis.
EXEMPTIONS FROM WEARING SEAT BELT
There are exemptions in the law setting out the conditions under which one would not be committing an offence if he were not wearing a seat belt.
(i) a child who is being conveyed in a child restraint system
(ii) a driver while he is reversing
(iii) a person who holds a valid certificate of exemption prescribed by the Minister and signed by a registered medical practitioner
(iv) a person riding in a vehicle while it is being used for fire brigade or police purposes
(v) a person driving or riding in a vehicle constructed or adapted for the delivery of goods or mail to consumers or premises as they case may be, while engaged in the delivery to or collection of such goods or mail from consumers or premises not further than sixty metres from each other
SAFETY HELMETS
The law requires that any person while driving or riding on a motorcycle shall wear a protective helmet of the shape, quality construction or standard prescribed. This implies that the driver of the motorcycle as well as the pillion passenger must wear helmets.

WHO WILL BE CHARGED FOR BREACHING THE LAW
(i) No seat belt on a seat in motor vehicle – the driver of the vehicle
(ii) Driving without wearing a seat belt – the driver of the vehicle
This implies that if a person is driving a motor vehicle without a seat belt installed, then he can be charged with two offences, that is no seat belt and not wearing a seat belt.
(iii) Not causing a child to wear or be conveyed in a child restraint system in a moving vehicle – the driver of the vehicle
(iv) Riding in a motor vehicle without wearing a seat belt if one is installed
The passenger will be prosecuted if that passenger is an adult.
(v) Not wearing protective helmet whilst driving a motor cycle – the driver
(vi) Not wearing protective helmet whilst being a pillion passenger
The pillion passenger will be charged unless he is a child, in which case the driver will be charged.