The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is in, and it shows that more American drivers than ever before are buckling up. Seatbelt usage is up to 85% nationally, with Oregon representing the state with the highest usage (94%) and North Dakota representing the state with the lowest usage (54%). If you look at the stats another way, 15% of drivers are still not wearing seat belts, which is better than one in six drivers. Chances are you’ve got friends and relatives who fall into that group.
There is no doubt that seat belts save lives; in fact, that’s not even possibly debatable. Airbags won’t do a thing to save you (and, in fact, may worsen injury) if not used in conjunction with seat belts. No matter how strong you are, no matter how physically fit, I can absolutely guarantee you one thing: in the event of an accident, even one at modest speeds, you’re not strong enough to keep yourself in place by bracing against the steering wheel. The steering wheel will collapse, or both shoulders will be dislocated, long before you stop moving.
I’ve heard a lot of excuses for not wearing seat belts, and most come from newer drivers. On the bizarre side, there was the reader whose friend thought God would look after her (trust me, he’s little busy these days). On the “I know my rights” side, there are those who don’t wear them as a protest against encroachment on their liberty. Guess what? Suicide is illegal in most states as well, so why not protest by sticking a gun in your mouth and pulling the trigger? In the event of a serious accident, the net result is likely to be the same.
The most common excuse I’ve heard has been, “I’m a good driver”. Everybody thinks that, but very few really are; besides, nobody ever wakes up and says, “I think I’ll get in an accident today, better dress appropriately”. You can’t plan for an accident, simply because you can’t predict the behavior of other drivers. You can’t anticipate mechanical failure, and chances are good that you don’t practice sudden lane changes under heavy braking at 70 miles per hour very often. Wear your seat belt, each and every time you get in a car.
I’ll get off my soap box now, but I’m curious: how many readers DON’T buckle up behind the wheel? If you don’t what’s your reason? Have you ever been in an accident without wearing a seat belt? Chances are that I won’t change your mind, but that won’t stop me from trying.