In 2011, 64% of the passenger vehicle occupants ages 21 to 24 killed in traffic crashes were not using restraints—the highest percentage of all age groups. Have you ever been in a car or truck as a driver or a passenger? Do you always wear a seat belt? In this article, I will talk about the importance of wearing your seat belt—whenever you are in a car, and no matter where you are sitting. While I was living in Michigan, someone I knew died in a single vehicle crash. By taking one easy action, it is very likely he would have survived. Why do I say that? He was driving a short distance, going home on a familiar road. But on the way, he hit the side of an embankment and his truck rolled over. When it happened, he was ejected from the truck and died. He was ejected because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. As someone who has been talking about highway safety for years, including the importance of wearing a seat belt, his death particularly struck me. What could I have said that would have made a difference?
Seat Belts Save Lives
Ejection is one of the most injurious actions that can happen to someone in a crash. In 2011, 77% of people ejected from a car or truck were killed. Seat belts prevent that, and more, from happening. Seat belts save lives.
In a crash, even as the vehicle absorbs the energy by changing direction and/or by a car’s crumple zones collapsing, the people and objects that are not secure continue going in the same direction—usually, for a driver or front seat passenger, into the steering wheel or front windshield. A seat belt makes sure you stay in the seat, allowing the car’s other safety features, such as the crumple zones, airbags and brakes to be effective. This includes anyone sitting in a back seat. A person in the back that is not belted in can become a projectile and hit the front seat occupants or be thrown through a window. It is critical that everyone in a car or truck wear a seat belt.
The great news is that 84 percent of the people in the U.S. use a seatbelt. In 2011 almost 12,000 lives were saved because people fastened their seat belts. Over 290,000 lives have been saved since 1975. Wearing a belt can reduce the risk of fatal injury in a car by 45 percent and moderate injuries by 50 percent. It is even greater for pickup trucks. Recognizing the importance of seat belts, all but one state in the U.S., and a majority of the countries across the globe have passed legislation mandating that drivers and usually also passenger(s) wear seat belts.
The Driving Skills of Those Around You
For those that occasionally don’t wear a seat belt, the common reasons given are:
- Just driving a short distance
- Forgetting, and
For those individuals who never wear a belt the usual excuses are they don’t need one or they don’t like being told what to do.
I think many times we believe that ‘I’m a safe driver,’ so I’ll be fine for this short trip. I don’t need to fasten the seat belt. After all, ‘I’m just going to the grocery store.’ Yet, no matter how good a driver we are, we apparently fail to recognize we have no control over, or knowledge of, the person’s driving skills in the car next to us, or the one approaching in the opposite direction. Another thought sometimes is that vehicles now have airbags. ‘That will protect me just fine.’ While air bags do save lives, it is the combination that makes a difference. Remember, air bags do not deploy in every type of crash. However, seat belts are for every situation. What can we do? Obviously, always wear a seat belt when in a car or truck. But more than that, as a driver, make sure your passengers are buckled in before going anywhere. As a parent, do you have your children buckled up, either in a child car seat, or if appropriate, in an adult seat belt? Have you talked with your children about the importance of always being buckled up? As a teen, are you making sure your parents fasten their seat belts? We all have influence with our family and friends. This is not the time to remain silent. This is not the time to fail to use a seat belt. That seat belt could save you, and those important to you. Someone I know became a statistic because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Don’t let that happen to you or someone you know. Always wear your seat belt. Has a seat belt saved you from injury? Let me know your story in the comments below.
Video: Vince and Larry – You Could Learn a Lot from a Dummy