What’s the first thing you do when you get in the car? Many of you might say you put on your seatbelt, but a surprising number of injuries and fatalities still occur because not enough people are buckling up.
As cars got more comfortable through the years, drivers and passengers became complaisant. Plush carpeting, lumbar-supported, video players, reclining seats, WiFi Internet, and the super-quiet rides of modern vehicles have provided great comforts along with a false sense of safety and security. But there’s nothing safe or secure when Sir Isaac Newton is in control of a couple of tons of steel speeding down the highway at 70 miles per hour.
Remember Newton’s first law of motion? No? Well, here is a refresher. Part of it states that an object in motion tends to stay in motion. So, when your vehicle comes to a sudden stop, say from an impact with another vehicle, anything inside it just keeps moving — initially at whatever speed the car was traveling.
Without a seatbelt, passengers are hurled through the windshield. And passive restraints, such as airbags, just aren’t enough. They might protect your face and head in a collision, but you still need a restraint of some kind to keep your body in place.
While it’s true that there are some crashes no one would survive, seatbelt or not, your chances of escaping serious injury or death increase greatly just by clicking in every time you get in the car. Statistics published by the Ohio Department of Public Safety reported more than 1,000 people were killed in crashes last year, and of those, more than a third weren’t wearing safety belts.
I’m going to say this the way most people wouldn’t — how dumb do you need to be not to put on a seatbelt when you get in a car? And all the high-tech stuff gives the false sense of security mentioned earlier is actually adding to the problem.
Cindy Antrican is the Public Affairs Manager for AAA in the Dayton area. She expressed to me her frustration recently that so many traffic casualties are still being reported that may have been prevented by the simple click of the seatbelt buckle.
“The prevalence of impaired and distracted drivers raises the level of danger for all drivers,” she told me. “All drivers and passengers whether riding in the front seat or the back seat, need to use a seatbelt every trip, every time! Seatbelts do save lives.” Antrican also noted the fact that for some age groups, the percentage of those using vehicle restraints is even lower.
Young people seem to think they’re indestructible while older drivers may have grown up without any sort of safety equipment in vehicles. In the old days, manufacturers often didn’t include seatbelts as a standard feature because it implied to the public that their vehicles were, “unsafe.” For many who grew up during those times, they made it this far, so why buckle up now?
In their day, kids bounced around in the pickup truck bed or back seat, untethered, and mom and dad slid around on the vinyl bench up front. Those who survived all that are now senior citizens, many of whom suffer from issues like Parkinson’s disease and osteoporosis, for which, unrestrained, a minor fender-bender could result in a crippling injury.
Additionally, there are also the ignorant hard heads out there who won’t wear a seatbelt simply because the law requires it. Bucking the system is fine, but maybe those people should be a little less obstinate about a bit of legislation that could actually save their lives.
Law or not, wearing a safety belt is just common sense, no matter your age. With the holidays in full swing, please remember, whether a passenger or a driver, to buckle up. You can find more information on traffic safety and statistics visit the official website of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, www.publicsafety.ohio.gov, or contact your local AAA office.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communication, Ltd. More at geryldeer.com.