It is well documented that drivers and passengers who fail to utilize their seat belts receive more severe injuries in highway crashes. Laws mandating their use have, however, been met with resistance by some on the basis that these laws infringe upon their personal freedom. One argument supporting this mandate, similar to that for the unpopular motorcycle helmet laws, is that society should not have to provide for your care when you are injured unnecessarily – essentially underwriting your own irresponsible behavior.
There are, however, other more compelling reasons for requiring drivers and passengers to “buckle up.”
The driver needs to be securely belted to maintain control in a relatively minor impact in order to prevent a second, possibly more severe, collision. A number of urban collisions, such as rear-ends, right-side impacts, and bouncing over curbs, that produced no injuries have resulted in a loss of control and a subsequent serious impact with another vehicle, a pedestrian, or a roadside object. An unrestrained front or rear passenger can also strike the driver, causing the driver to lose control. A unbelted driver or passenger can also become a deadly projectile that can seriously injure another innocent, properly restrained vehicle occupant.
These reasons provide sufficient justification, in my opinion, for drivers and all passengers, including small children, to be legally required to use the available restraint system. Some reasons given by seriously injured people for not using a seat belt:
- “I’m only going to the grocery.” (Most accidents occur close to home.)
- “It will wrinkle my clothes.” (Think what an accident will do to your body.)
- “I’m a careful driver.” (The other guy may not be.)
Another troubling issue is the lack of seat belts in school buses. This not only puts children at risk, but also teaches them that this is an acceptable practice.
More information on injury causation and mitigation can be found in the book: Highway Accidents: Investigation, Reconstruction and Causation available at: Amazon.com. Information about the book and author is available at: www.bmorrow.com.