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The Safety Belt Defense

(credit: Thinkstock)

(credit: Thinkstock)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - The safety belt defense isn’t when your weight watchers leader tells you to tighten your belt to avoid overeating. It’s a legal defense that could cost you a lot of extra dough.

A spokesperson for Toyota Motor Company said that of the innovative changes coming soon, cars will have individually tailored seat belts. The car’s seat will be able automatically to sense your height and weight and adjust the belt accordingly. That’s creepy. But good, I guess.

What was not said was whether it would buckle itself in case it sensed that you’re too dumb to do so yourself. But, if the car can’t do it, perhaps the laws can.

There are mandatory safety belt laws in all states except New Hampshire. But you might not realize that the penalties can be much more costly than a ticket. If you get into a car accident, 16 states allow what’s called the “safety belt defense,” which means if you sue someone, the other driver might not have to pay as much even if the accident was his fault if your injuries could have been prevented or lessened if you’d buckled up.

Even if common sense doesn’t convince you to fasten your seat belt – perhaps dollars and cents will.