One of the most common questions I get asked as a law enforcement officer is “What is the hardest thing you have had to deal with as an officer?” That is an easy answer for me. It’s the rollover accident I was called to early in my career, where the driver was killed after he was ejected from his vehicle. All of his passengers walked away without injury. I will always remember that call. I will always think of his mother and the loss she must feel. I will always wonder what that young man’s life would be like today if he had just worn his seatbelt.
I’m sure that young man thought of many different reasons for not wearing his seatbelt. Maybe he thought, “I’m just driving down the road” or “I’m a safe, careful driver.” Maybe he thought “I have an airbag” or “I’ll just brace myself” or “it’s too uncomfortable.” Maybe he though “I’ll be trapped in the car if I wear it” or “My parents never wore them, why should I?” These are very common excuses many people come up with.
Try, instead, to look at the facts behind the benefits of wearing a seatbelt instead of the excuses to not wear one.
Fact: 80% of traffic accidents happen within 25 miles of home and at speeds under 40 mph.
Fact: You have no control over other risky driving factors such as bad weather, car trouble or other drivers.
Fact: An airbag increases the effectiveness of a safety belt by 40%. Used alone, they are only 12% effective.
Fact: If you wanted to brace yourself you would need superhuman reaction time and whatever part of your body you used would be shattered.
Fact: There are many adjustable features to help make your seatbelt more comfortable. Plus, wearing a seatbelt is more comfortable than the days spent in a hospital healing from injuries that could have been prevented just by wearing it.
Fact: You are 25 times more likely to die from being ejected from your vehicle because of not wearing a seatbelt than you are from being trapped in your vehicle with your seatbelt on. In the unlikely situation of your vehicle being submerged in water or on fire, you would have wanted your seatbelt on initially to protect you in order to remain conscious.
As for the last excuse of “My parents never wore them, why should I?” please think of this:
You set an example for your child. If you don’t buckle up yourself, they’re more likely to follow that behavior when they can make their own choices. I never want you to be in the position of regretting setting that good example for your child.
Have you ever seen the Embrace Life seatbelt commercial? Click on the video below.
(Melissa Westby is the School Resource Officer for both Carl Ben Eielson Middle School and Woodrow Wilson High School. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 446-1709.)
Above video © 2010 Sarah Alexander/Daniel Cox/Sussex Safer Roads Partnership.