Traffic Tip Tuesday: Seatbelts, Why do I need and have to wear one?

Buckle UpSeat belts are always a hot topic of discussion.  State statute 66-7-372 in brief states: all persons in a vehicle MUST wear a seat belt regardless of seating position.  The only exceptions to this statute are commercial vehicles, rural letter carriers and individuals with a written order from a physician stating that he or she should not wear a safety belt.

Some people believe that not wearing a seat belt is their right, despite the fact it is state law.  We hope to change this point of view.  Let’s start with some reasons why we NEED to wear a seat belt.


  1. Seat belts are designed to keep you inside the passenger cabin during a collision.
  2. Seat belts are designed to contact our bodies at the strongest parts of our body (shoulder, chest and hips).
  3. You are four times more likely to die in a collision if you are ejected from the vehicle during a crash.
  4. During a collision, the crash forces are so intense you will not be able to restrain yourself or another during the event.  The forces are calculated by using the pre-crash speed multiplied by the weight of the object.  Example: a person weighs 150 lbs and is traveling at 35 mph, the forces would be 5,250 pounds.  In other words, you would have to restrain 5,250 pounds.  This is not humanly possible.

Below is a crash test video.  This particular video is of a 25 mph barrier test; engineers accelerated the vehicle to a specific speed (25 mph) and guided the vehicle into a barrier.  You will notice this is two separate tests.  One with the benefit of airbags and seat belts and one without either.

Crash test with and without safety video

As you can plainly see, wearing a seat belt keeps us safer and saves lives.  Just imagine, if you will, that the unrestrained occupant had a child in his or her lap.  The child would likely be crushed and severely injured, if not killed.

What is Farmington Police Department doing about this?  Very good question!

FPD has long been known to be very aggressive in enforcing seat belt and child restraint violations. FPD takes this issue seriously.  Many of our officers have responded to collisions where a person was killed just because he or she was not wearing a seat belt. I cannot tell you how gut wrenching it is to sit down with a person and tell them their loved one died in a car crash as a result of not wearing a seat belt.  So you may see it as a “right” to not wear your seat belt, but I ask you this, do your loved ones want to live without you because you were not wearing a seat belt? If you fall into this category, have a courageous talk with your family – ask them how THEY feel about this.

The Farmington Police Department believes so strongly in occupant safety, we partnered with Safer New Mexico Now and the Farmington Municipal Court to offer an educational program for first offenders.  The program has been a great success and the recidivism rate is fairly low.

Remember, we can save over 11,000 lives nationally if we just wear our seat belts.  It only takes a few seconds to buckle up.

Look for future Traffic Tip Tuesday articles where we will discuss child restraints and tackle the issue of helmet use by motorcyclists. Sign up to follow our blog at and receive email notifications when new articles are posted.

If you have questions about these topics, please leave a comment on our Facebook page under this post and we will respond to them.  Remember, there are no “dumb” questions.

Snowbarger, MartinMartin Snowbarger has been a law enforcement officer for 18 years. He’s worked for the Farmington Police Department for 15 years and in Raton, NM for three years. Officer Snowbarger has been with FPD’s Traffic Division since 2003 and has been a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and Traffic Collision Reconstructionist for 11 years.