Sunday, October 22, 2006

Go Belt Someone Today

As I was driving home Friday afternoon and stopped at a red light, glanced over to my right and saw two women sitting in their car. What I noticed first about these women was that both of them were smoking. What I noticed next was that neither one was wearing a seat belt. I guess if you don't care about what smoking can do to you the flipside of that is that you likely wouldn't care what a seat belt can do for you either.

I took a quick look around. I checked the cars in my rear view mirror, looked to my left and looked up ahead. Two other people were driving without their seat belts on. I was a bit surprised to see four people not wearing their seat belts. That was weird. I was just about a mile from the house and decided to play a counting game to see how many people would I find were driving without their seat belts on. I anticipated that I would see one, maybe two other people maximum driving without seat belts. I was only about a mile from home after all.

The rules were simple. If could not see a belt drawn over the driver's left shoulder I would count that as one. I did not count passengers nor did I count when it was questionable. It had to be clear that the driver was not wearing a seat belt. Thankfully (?) those not wearing a seat belt were frequently hunched over the steering wheel while driving, thus making it easier to spot. I didn't count the passenger of the first car I saw, so the game began with three.

So how many did I count within a mile of the house? Twelve. I counted twelve people who were clearly not wearing seat belts. I would guess there were more, but I had to pay attention to my own driving and could only count when I was at a stop.

I've often heard that most accidents happen within a mile of home. I've also heard terrible accounts of lives lost that all have a simple connection... no seat belt. My roommate at prep school had been in a coma for several months due to an accident he was in. He wasn't wearing a seat belt and survived. He was lucky. His passenger, also not wearing a seat belt, was not as fortunate.

Here are some statistics I dug up from James Madison University:
  • one out of every five drivers will be involved in a traffic crash this year.
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among people age 44 and younger and the number one cause of head and spinal cord injury.
  • Approximately 35,000 people die in motor vehicle crashes each year. About 50 percent (17,000) of these people could be saved if they wore their safety belts.
  • More than 90 percent of all motorists believe safety belts are good idea, but less than 14 percent actually use them.
  • For every one percent increase in safety belt use, 172 lives and close to $100 million in annual injury and death costs could be saved.
  • Safety belts when used properly reduce the number of serious traffic injuries by 50 percent and fatalities by 60-70 percent.

Go here if you want to read some more surprising stats.

I guess my point to this post is that you can educate people all you want, but they'll still do whatever they want even if they know it might cause harm to themselves. Here's a thought for preventing people from making a wrong choice for themselves when they get behind the wheel... why not make it impossible for a car to start without having the seat belt engaged? On second thought that would cause an uproar that the government is taking away freedom of choice and I'm sure someone would figure out a way around it anyway.

And the title? Back in the seventies there were some PSA's encouraging everyone to start wearing their seat belts. It had a very memorable, sing songy jingle "go belt someone today!" at the end of the spot as a friendly reminder that you can help each other remember to buckle up. I remember Kevin and Rod using it as an excuse to punch me in the arm. Two for flinching.

I never leave the driveway without my seat belt buckled. It may be annoying but I make sure my passengers do the same. If you don't wear a seat belt now, it's not too late to get into the habit. Go belt someone today.


Laura said...

I can't even begin to count the number of people I know who in the last year have been critically wounded or killed in a car accident which could have easily been saved with taking one simple additional step and putting on a seatbelt! Thanks for the reminder!

Sam Meers said...

Here's another stat. 70% of all front-seat fatalities in car accidents are caused by the people in the rear seat not wearing seat belts. They fly forward, killing the people in the front seat. All passengers need to wear them.

Oh, and one more point. I love looking to see what people keep in the space below their back glass, just to imagine what it will look like as it becomes a missle moving forward when a head-on collision occurs.

The pointed umbrellas catch my interest the quickest.

jenne said...

I told Steve most accidents happen within a mile from home and he wanted to move.

dhduff said...

I think Steve's logic is the equivalent of driving without a seat belt. It's just plain silly - just like Steve.