Seatbelts are your first line of defense against injuries or death. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, lap-shoulder belt systems reduce the risk of fatality and serious injury by 50 percent when used. However, most Americans did not regularly use seatbelts until 1984, when the first state laws were passed mandating seatbelt use. Today, there are 49 states where it is illegal for a driver or passenger to travel without a seatbelt (the exceptions is New Hampshire; although they have a primary child passenger safety law for children under 18).
Seatbelt Safety Facts
Not only do drivers need to wear seatbelts, but passengers need to buckle up too. The National Transportation Safety Board reports that in 2009, more than 23,000 people died as occupants in automobile crashes. A whopping 55 percent were unrestrained and not practicing proper seatbelt safety.
As the driver it’s your responsibility to make sure your passengers buckle up. The best way to do that is to set the example for your passengers by buckling up first. Another way to help passengers (especially children) get into the habit of buckling up is to make a contest of it (the first one to buckle up wins!)
Most people who don’t wear seatbelts have an excuse. Here are a few examples of excuses people give for not practicing seatbelt safety:
“I’m only going to down the road.” Since 80 percent of traffic fatalities occur within 25 miles of home and under speeds of 40 mph, short trips near home are the best times to wear seatbelts.
“I’m a safe, careful driver.” Unfortunately, your driving ability is only one part of a complex equation, and wearing seatbelts is an integral part of being a safe driver. After all, you can control your behavior, but you can’t control other risky driving factors like bad weather, car trouble, poor road conditions and other drivers.
“But I’ve got an airbag.” An air bag increases the effectiveness of a safety belt by 40 percent. Used alone they’re only 12 percent effective. Plus unless your car is equipped with side airbags as well, you’d be completely unprotected against side impact collisions without seatbelts.
To see the rest of the list of common reasons people give for not buckling up (and the reasons they should) you can visit the LWCC website.
Buckling your seatbelt should be the first thing you, and your passengers do when you get in the car. It’s the law, it reduces injuries, and saves lives!