Yes, you should wear seatbelts
Wearing seat belts is a prime issue in defensive driving. The use of seat belts over the years has reduced the number of serious injuries and fatalities seen in vehicle accidents.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that nearly half of the persons killed annually in motor vehicle crashes die because they were not wearing seat belts. One of the safest choices drivers and passengers can make is to buckle up yet millions do not buckle up on every trip.
The consequences of not wearing, or improperly wearing a seat belt are clear:
- Buckling up helps keep you safe and secure inside your vehicle, whereas not buckling up can result in being ejected from the vehicle in a crash, which is almost always deadly.
- Seat belts are designed to use your body's strong bones to absorb shock rather than damage to internal organs.
- Wearing your seat belt can:
- Prevent you from crashing into the steering wheel, dash or windshield
- Protect your body’s organs
- Improve your chances of remaining conscious
- Help keep you behind the wheel if you have to swerve or brake suddenly
- Air bags are not enough to protect you; in fact, the force of an air bag can seriously injure or even kill you if you’re not buckled up. Air bags are designed to work with seat belts, not replace them.
- Improperly wearing a seat belt, such as putting the strap below your arm, puts you at risk in a crash.
Guidelines to buckle up safely
- Secure your lap belt and shoulder belt across the pelvis and rib cage, which are better able to withstand crash forces than other parts of your body.
- Place the shoulder belt across the middle of your chest and away from your neck.
- Rest your lap belt across your hips, not your stomach.
- NEVER put the shoulder belt behind your back or under an arm.
- Before you buy a new car, check to see that its seat belts are a good fit for you.
- Ask your dealer about seat belt adjusters, which can help you get the best fit.
- If you need a roomier belt, contact your vehicle manufacturer to obtain seat belt extenders.
- If you drive a classic car or an older model car with lap belts only, check with your vehicle manufacturer about how to retrofit your car with today’s safer lap/shoulder belts.
Despite the statistics demonstrating that seat belts can save lives, many drivers and passengers fail to use them and offer arguments against the use of belts even though little evidence supports their objections. Let's examine a few of these objections and see what the experts at the National Safety Council have to say:
“If I’m in an accident, I don’t want to be trapped in my vehicle during a fire or if it goes into the water.”
Chances are that if the crash is severe enough to trap you in the vehicle, you will be trapped even if you aren’t wearing a belt. Fires occur in only 0.2% and submersion in only 0.3% of all injury producing accidents. Even then your seat belt can increase your chances of escape by keeping you from being knocked unconscious.
“I’m a good driver—never had an accident. Why do I need seat belts?”
Statistics show that four out of five drivers involved in accidents never had one before. In addition to reducing injuries and saving lives in accidents, seat belts are comfortable, give you better control and make you less tired. Once the seat belt habit is acquired, you will automatically buckle up every time you get into your vehicle.
It’s a free country and no one can make me wear seat belts if I don’t want to!”
That’s right—no one can force you to use seat belts. We do live in a free country and we do have freedom of choice. Keep in mind however, freedom means that we abide by the laws that are intended to protect us from harm. Most states have laws that require the mandatory use of seat belts. Should you choose to ignore the law, then be prepared to pay the price when you are caught not wearing them.
“I don’t wear the belts because they mess up my clothes”.
What is worse, showing up for a date or arriving at work with a few new wrinkles, or not getting to your destination at all because you’re dead? Being thrown from vehicles, or becoming a projectile inside the vehicle, during accidents, almost always results in a fatality.
“My vehicle is equipped with an automatic shoulder belt attached to the door, so I don’t have to worry”.
This is called a passive restraint, and you should worry because it will not protect you from serious injury during an auto accident. In an accident situation, the force of the impact can throw your body under the shoulder belt leaving you to bounce around inside your vehicle, or tossing you out. Always wear a properly adjusted lap belt with your shoulder belt. This goes for all passengers in your vehicle as well.
Do you always buckle up when you get behind the wheel? Hopefully, you will make the right choice and make the use of seat belts a habit. They do save lives.
*Markel Specialty is a business division of Markel Service, Incorporated, the underwriting manager for the Markel affiliated insurance companies.