Seat Belts. I hate them! And yet, if you see me in a car you will notice I am always wearing them. The reason? Very simple: I don’t want to die in a car accident! I’m old enough to remember when some of the first seat belts came out: leather straps that cut you in half across your waist. And that was when they were adjusted properly.
Historically speaking, the first seat belts were used to raise and/or lower people. The next important adaptation of seat belts was to hold pilots in their seats in planes when they were maneuvering up, down, and all around.
Now, get this! In the mid-1930’s, a number of doctors around the country began installing them in their own cars. Amazing! Scientist Nils Bohlin designed the first of the three-point seat belt harnesses for the 1959 Volvo line of cars. What we have now are multiple restraints with spring-loaded adjustments and quick release buttons which are almost like fluffy pillows caressing your chest compared to the first generation of belts.
So why do so many people still refuse to wear them when they’re driving? There is plenty of research, both from tests done in the laboratory, as well as from the hard and fast statistics compiled from deaths which were recorded in highway accidents, to make people want to wear them.
According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, on the average over 7,000 lives a year would have been saved if seat belts had been worn. In the same study, over 13,000 peoples’ lives were discovered to have been saved because they were wearing them.
Still not convinced? In 2009, vehicle crashes killed over 33,000 people and injured some 2.2 million more. People are paying attention, for in 2010, seat belt usage had risen overall to some 85% of people buckling up. And yet, those same statistics show one out of seven drivers will get into their car and not buckle up. That is madness!
Having given the matter much thought, there is only one reason I have heard why anyone could logically refuse to wear them. Very simply put, if the person has a medical impairment or condition or injury which would be aggravated or worsened if a seat restraint were to be worn. Those suffering from such a condition might tell you finding some other means of restraint might be very expensive and might not even be possible due to their condition.
Believe it or not, there were nine other reasons people given more often in a State of Delaware study conducted to see why people weren't wearing them. The most common reason people given is that the person is afraid of getting stuck in a vehicle in an accident. If that’s you’re excuse, go ahead and feel comfortable in the knowledge that you probably won’t get stuck in your seat.
However, that won’t really matter because these same studies have shown if you’re not buckled up and get into a serious accident, according to these studies the chances are very high that you’ll be dead!
Guess what? Seat belts reduce deaths in passenger cars by 45% and light pickup trucks by 60% overall, and they have been shown to reduce the risk of serious injuries to the head, chest, and extremities (arms and legs) by between 50 and 88%.
The next three most common excuses are it irritates your skin, makes you fell restrained, or doesn’t fit. Ok, folks. First of all, they are adjustable. Once adjusted you won’t have to mess with them again. Second, that’s what they’re supposed to do: keep you from going flying through the windows or windshield of your car! Finally, if you are indeed too large for the range of size a regular seat belt will go around, just buy a seat belt extender! They’re cheap and oh-so-easy to use.
The next reason is that it prevents you from turning your head. If this is true, you need to adjust your seat belt really badly because once properly adjusted they will restrain your chest and not even touch your neck. I hate to say it, but the excuses from this point on range from laughable to ludicrous.
Now, the next excuse is, well, pretty dumb. It is “I forgot”. Folks, do you forget to breathe after you wake up! You need to be buckled up before you even think about starting the engine. After all, it’s not like you just robbed a bank and are making a quick getaway, right? On top of that, think how nice it’ll be once that stupid beeping sound that means you, or someone else, hasn’t buckled up finally stops.
Now, the next most common answer given is, I think, childish and slightly insane: ”Nobody can tell me what to do when I’m in my car.” In your driveway, maybe! Sheesh. First of all, driving is a privilege, not a constitutionally guaranteed right, like freedom of speech. Second, once you leave your driveway, you are in the public, and have to follow local, state, and federal laws. If you don’t, watch out!
Next up is the fact is because your car has air bags. OK, if you are one of those that believes this means you're safe, read this: air bags are not fluffy pillows intended to catch you when you fall – they inflate at some 250 miles per hour to fill the space between you and the car body upon impact, and then just as fast deflate. So, after you’re done hitting the air bag, you will then fly into whatever it was that you hit, or that hit you, and once again will most likely die or suffer serious injury. Really?
The next answer given makes me want to scream: “I can’t feed my baby or look at her when I wear my seat belt.” You have got to be kidding! For someone who has a child in their car, I would hope they would be focused on keeping them safe. If they are upset, or need to be fed, or even changed, pull over. For God’s sake, and that of your baby! Please!
And finally, another argument I have heard occasionally, but which wasn’t in this study, is one I consider both specious and irresponsible. The vehicle doesn’t have any. Hard to believe but there are some vintage cars without seat belts driving around on the roads. Retrofitting them, the owners would probably tell you, would be both costly and aggravating and would destroy the ‘feel’ of the vehicle.
The bottom line: The same National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration study has determined that another person in the United States will die in a car accident every 13 minutes. The question that you should ask yourself every time you get into a car is, “Do I want it to be me?”
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