Safety 101 - Lesson 15

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


Many people believe that air bag installations preclude the use of seat belts to limit injury. As mentioned earlier, in my personal experience, not only didn't the air bag deploy, but had we not been wearing the seat belts, all four people in the car would have experienced second collisions. A case in point: air bags are not a valid substitute for seat belts. Experience points out that:

  • many minor injuries still occur at speeds low enough that the air bag fails to deploy
  • air bags offer minimal, if any, protection in a side impact accident
  • the air bag itself "expends" rapidly and can cause minor injuries itself.

Again our culture breeds a myth!

Behavioral Safety and Management

Since the 1940's, behavioral sciences have been studied as an indicator of "internal states" (e.g. an individual's state of mind, a perception, or an attitude). Their attempts worked to bridge psychology to behaviors and actions. Over the last 50 years or so, numerous relationships were drawn between behavior management, safe performance and improvements in quality of initiatives. These behavior assessments have also linked training, organizational development, and individual responsibility and involvement; and, oh yes - habit.

The findings of research tend to reflect these basic assumptions of "behavioral safety" and "behavioral management"-

  • people must take personal responsibility for wearing their seat belts - today this isn't necessarily the case;
  • people must remember and apply what they are taught, to wear their seat belt - today this isn't necessarily the case;
  • organizations must strive to assure people do their tasks as a matter of routine, meaning policies requiring the use of seat belts when driving on business must be set forth and enforced - today this isn't necessarily the case; and
  • we must make wearing our belts a habit - today, this isn't necessarily the case.

Behaviors Get in the Way

With all of the value seat belts provide, why do people not wear them religiously? The reality that failing to wear seat belts raises the probability of serious injury if involved in an accident just doesn't seem to matter. It appears that our habits, culture and behavior just seem to get in the way.

To validate the issue of behavior and perception as a problem, we can look at a 1995 survey where over half of those surveyed were aware that vehicle accidents were the primary reason for emergency medical unit responses in their community. However, less than half of the respondents said that they would change their behaviors as a result of learning this information. Many of these people felt that they already drive safely. However, the perception exists that if they drive safely it protects them for the errant driver. Defensive driving and seat belt use are a "dynamic duo" in driving safety, if we realize it and practice it.

Why don't you wear your belt?

  • Don't you see the value?
  • Is it secondary to getting there?
  • Is the problem the other guy?

Deaths and injuries in vehicle accidents remain a major problem, especially among the young. Not wearing your seat belt raises the probability of more serious injury if you are involved in an accident. We must take responsibility, exhibit positive behaviors, set examples, and make it a habit to buckle up, for our own well-being and for the well-being of those we love.

Basic Conclusions

Over the years, the use of seat belts has been proven to be a very effective weapon in the war against injuries and deaths associated with vehicle accidents.

Despite this reality, the study showed that 40% of those observed do not wear seat belts, indicating that behaviors (habits) drive our actions.

The challenge is quite clear, with auto accidents continuing to occur at high rates: someone has to take action to limit injury to those victims of auto accidents. An effective way is to locally get to the residents or those you work with and convince them of the value of seat belt usage. Make it a rule to "buckle up before you start the vehicle." Make it a habit. Make it a routine behavior. The more you make it a part of your culture (habit or routine), the less likely you will experience that more serious injury should you ever be involved in an accident.

Practice injury prevention...wear your seat belt all the time.