Last Friday as I was driving with my son, we witnessed multiple state police troopers on the side of the highway with lights flashing. There was a small SUV with damage all over it to the side of the highway up against some trees. The vehicle had veered off the road and rolled several times.
I instinctively checked to make sure my son had his seat belt fastened. As we passed the terrible scene, I said "I hope everyone is alright" and my son, seeing all of the damage, asked how that could be possible. I thumbed the heavy nylon strap across my chest and said "These, seatbelts, make it possible to avoid serious injury and sometimes death."
Sadly, the 17-year-old young woman who had been driving the vehicle had not been wearing her seatbelt; she was ejected from the vehicle and did not survive. My heart goes out to her family. I cannot begin to image the pain of such a loss and don't know how I could deal with such a tragedy, if at all.
It becomes easy to take for granted some of the important reasons why we wear our seatbelts when we ride in a car, but then we pass an accident and we remember the importance of buckling up. For some, wearing a seatbelt may seem like an unnecessary hassle, but seatbelts make it possible to avoid serious injury or even death. For young adults, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death. In 2009, over 2.3 million drivers and passengers were in need of emergency care resulting from injuries acquired in a motor vehicle accident. The proven best way to prevent these injuries is by buckling up whenever you are in a car.
Why should I wear my seatbelt?
Seatbelts are intended to prevent the person wearing them from flying through the car windshield, slamming into the dashboard, or having any part of their body displaced when the car goes from driving at a fast speed to an abrupt stop. The force that moves your body is known as inertia. Inertia refers to the tendency of an object to remain in motion until something prevents this motion. When a person is riding in a car, they are traveling at the same speed the car is. When the car immediately stops against another force, the passengers in the car remain traveling at that speed until something stops them. Hopefully, that something is the seatbelt before they experience a serious and life-altering injury.
However, there are some populations that have been shown to wear their seatbelt less often:
- People between the ages of 18 and 34
- Those living in rural locations
- In states with fewer seatbelt enforcement laws
Many people state that they do not wear a seatbelt for fear of being trapped inside of the car in the event of an accident. Those that use this as their reason should know that the chances of experiencing a fatal injury are greater when someone is thrown out of a vehicle rather than being trapped within.
As more and more people are aware of the invaluable and life-protecting service provided by seatbelts, their popular usage has increased and the number of fatalities associated with not wearing them severely decreased. In 2010, an estimated 12,546 were saved by wearing a seat belt. Fastening a seat belt takes almost no time at all, and can make the difference between an accident and a tragedy.