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Seat Belt Safety: Why Everyone Should Buckle Up

Wearing a seat belt could save your life...as well as the lives of the people you love.

Wearing a seat belt could save your life...as well as the lives of the people you love.

Between 2004 and 2008, over 75,000 people died in auto accidents because they did not wear a seat belt, almost the same amount of people it would take to fill the Dallas Cowboy's football stadium with an 80,000 seat capacity. If all the fans in that stadium suddenly died at once, we would certainly be alarmed!

Think about it: In four years, the number of preventable auto accident deaths is almost equivalent to a stadium full of people. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, 13,000 lives could be saved every year if every passenger wore their seat belt for every single car trip—even short ones.

How Seatbelts Work

Seat belts are just one part of an automobile's overall safety system, which includes:

  • seat belts
  • air bags
  • crumple zones
  • padded interiors

Ironically, some people believe that they do not need to wear a seat belt if they have airbags. In fact, airbags can be deadly if the passenger is thrown into them when not being restrained by a seat belt. Not only does a seat belt work by restraining a passenger but it also functions to spread the impact of the crash across the body. Belts with safety harnesses are much safer than the old-style lap belt. And if you are wondering, the safest location in the car is the center position in the back seat with a shoulder harness system.

Seat belts save lives & prevent serious injuries by:

  • preventing you from hitting hard surfaces
  • preventing you from being thrown into another body (see video)
  • preventing you from being thrown from the vehicle
  • preventing you from hitting an airbag with great force while it is expanding with great force

Seat Belts Prevent Occupants From Being Thrown Into Each Other

Tragically, 25% of all serious injuries occur when occupants are thrown into each other. What's worse, many children are killed by their own unseat-belted parents being thrown into them with more force than the human body can withstand. According to statistics compiled by James Madison University, being involved in an auto accident without wearing a seat belt is the number one cause of head and spinal injuries. It is estimated that 50% of all motor vehicle deaths per year could be prevented simply by using a seat belt.

Ways to Encourage Buckling Up

  • As an adult, put on your seat belt every single time you get in the car before it is moving. If you have children, they are watching and learning from your every move.
  • Make sure young children are secured properly in safety seats every single trip and make sure they travel in the rear seat.
  • Secondary seatbelt enforcement laws should be changed to primary enforcement laws
  • Read CDC's pamphlet Vital Signs: Adult Seat Belt Use.

Seat Belts Save Lives

Sometimes we hear so much bad news on the t.v. that we almost become immune to really hearing it. But this summer one tragic headline news story came through loud and clear. At first we took note of the NBC news promo because it looked like the girl in the photo shown was wearing a sports uniform from our local high school. After a quick internet search, we sadly discovered that in fact a 15-year old girl who attends the same high school as our children was tragically killed in a car accident.

It seems the girl was very distraught after learning that her dog may have to be put to sleep because it had cancer. Apparently, she drove off in the family van with the dog, although she was not even old enough to have a license. Along the way she picked up her friend, unlicensed as well. At some point they switched driving and the friend accidentally crashed the van. The friend suffered scratches. The girl and her dog that she loved so much both died. Absolutely everything about this is sad and tragic. But what makes it even sadder is that the deaths may have been prevented. You see, the friend was wearing a seat belt, the girl and her dog were not.

Seat Belt Laws Are Effective

You've probably heard the different catchy names that states have for their seat belt laws. "Click it or ticket" and "Buckle up, it's the law" come to mind. All states in the U.S. require adults to wear seat belts except for New Hampshire. It seems they take their state motto, "Live Free or Die," penned by General Stark in 1809, quite literally when it comes to seat belt safety. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) 19 states, which contain 25% of the nation's population, have primary enforcement laws when it comes to seat belts.

What is a primary enforcement law? A primary enforcement law means that a police officer can pull you over and ticket you just because someone is not wearing a seat belt.

What is a secondary enforcement law? A secondary enforcement law means that you can be ticketed for failure to wear a seat belt, but you have to have been pulled over primarily for some other reason like speeding, etc.

Are both primary and secondary seat belt enforcement laws effective? While both types of laws have been effective in increasing the number of passengers wearing seat belts, seat belt use is higher in states with primary enforcement laws. The CDC states that 79% of people in secondary enforcement states wear seat belts, whereas 88% of people in primary enforcement states wear seat belts.

Always be sure that your car's seatbelts are functioning properly.

Always be sure that your car's seatbelts are functioning properly.

Groups that Do Not Wear Seat Belts as Consistently

1 in 7 people do not wear a seat belt every time they get in the car. If that number could be reduced to 0 in 7, then thousands of lives could be saved each year.

So, who is less likely to wear a seat belt?

  • Adults in rural areas wear seat belts 10% less often than their urban counterparts.
  • Men are 10% less likely to wear seat belts.
  • Adults ages 18-34 are 10% less likely to wear seat belts as compared to adults age 35 and older.
  • Drivers in secondary enforcement law states are less likely to wear seat belts than those in primary law enforcement states

The History of Seat Belts

Interestingly, the first seat belt patent was issued in 1885 to Edward Claghorn. The basic idea of his patent was to secure a person, like a fireman, to a fixed object. Years later in 1911 a pilot named Benjamin Foulois added seat belts to his airplane. Basically, he wanted to feel safer during bumpy take-offs and landings. But it was in 1946 that the idea of retractable seat belts came into being, after neurologist C. Hunter Shelden decided he had seen many head injuries in the emergency room due to lap belts. By 1959 congress got on board and passed legislation, adopting safety standards for the automobile industry.

Comments

Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on July 24, 2012:

Thanks Vellur. Buckling up is such an easy thing to do and the results can absolutely be life-saving.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on July 23, 2012:

Useful information, well researched and presented. Voted up.