Safety 101 - Lesson 15

Defensive driving and seat belt use are a "dynamic duo" in driving safety, if we realize it and practice it.


For years I have pondered the impact on behaviors by "the seat belt." When first introduced to the seatbelt as a teenager, I found them to be a nuisance: so much so that I recall buckling it under my seat to eliminate its interference. Yes, in those days 65-, 70-, and 75-mile-per-hour speeds were my driving routine.

As I aged, I gained more respect for "the belt," yet it was only through my involvement on a rescue squad that I better understood what happens to you if you don't wear your seatbelt.

As time marched on and my children were born, the value of the seat belt grew even more. There was no safety protection too small to assure a better level of safety for me and my family.

In any case, it wasn't the law or threat of a fine that awakened me to the value of seat belts, but the realization that they can limit or prevent injury in the event of an accident. In fact, not long ago, my family and I were involved in an accident where over $10,000 of damage occurred, yet no injuries resulted. All of us in the car were wearing seatbelts. The accident occurred on the ring road of a shopping complex, and happened while I was driving at a relatively low speed. The accident was caused when an errant driver failed to yield (negative driving behavior) and hit my car, and which time our seat belt use (positive driving behavior) negated injury. What became obvious was the impact of various safe and unsafe behaviors and their relationship to accidents. By the way, the operator of the other car did NOT USE A SEAT BELT, and was INJURED.

The Assessment

While completing requirements for my doctoral degree, I undertook a seat belt related research project, analyzing behaviors of individuals with regard to seat belt usage. Over several months, I took the opportunity to assess driving behaviors and seat belt use in an effort to draw a correlation between the two.

A tracking mechanism was used to collect specific data regarding:

  • Location (highway or traffic)
  • Time of Day (a.m. or p.m.)
  • Weather Conditions
  • Type of Vehicle
  • Passenger Usage of Belts
  • Erratic Behaviors
  • Other Distractions

A summary of all observations revealed some interesting statistics:

  1. A high percentage (40%) of people do not wear seat belts, even though-
    • they save lives, and
    • it is against the law not to wear them.
  2. People driving older vehicles tend not to wear the belts (94%).
  3. Regardless of whether road conditions are clear and dry or wet and slick, about 40% of the drivers do not wear safety belts.
  4. 45% of those driving erratically do not wear safety belts.
  5. A slightly higher percentage of drivers tend not to use safety belts in the afternoon (42%) than in the morning (38%) hours.
  6. More erratic drivers do not use safety belts (75%) in the morning hours than in the afternoon.
  7. When the driver does not wear a safety belt, the passenger is less likely to wear one.
  8. Conversely, when the driver does wear a safety belt, the passenger is more likely to wear one.
  9. Most truck drivers (72%) do not wear seat belts.
  10. More drivers on the highway (65%) tend to wear belts than those driving in traffic (55%).

The Seat Belt

Since its introduction in the 1960's, the seat belt has become one of the most significant safety devices for those riding in a vehicle. Unfortunately, history has illustrated that people don't always wear them, even though the seat belt can protect riders from serious injury or death and it is the law to wear them.

The seat belt helps restrain those riding in the passenger compartment of the vehicle from colliding with the dashboard, steering wheel, windshield or roof. The seat belt will hold a person in place preventing this "second collision." The safety belt actually distributes the force of a body's movement from the impact. The belt also keeps riders from being ejected from the vehicle, where they are 25 times more likely to be killed or injured.

Seat belts provide a simple and effective method to safeguard against serious injury or death.

Why, then, do so many people not wear them?

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