Every day people make decisions, some a little riskier than others, which somehow affect the rest of their lives. However, not everyone realizes that the smallest decisions can have the biggest risks. I am talking about a decision that takes only two seconds, yet so many people fail to make the correct one. Wearing a seat belt is something that should be taught from the very first car ride, yet it is often the first thing over looked when a person gets into his or her car. Wearing a seat belt is proven to save lives, therefore people should focus on buckling up, and fines given to those who drive unrestrained should be strictly enforced.
Statistics show that in potentially fatal crashes wearing a seat belt increases the chance of survival by 45% (MTA 1). From 1975 through 2000, it is estimated that safety belts saved 135,102 lives (MADD 1). An example occurred in the summer of 1999, a day just like any other. Katie Sanchez and Julie Chapple were on their way home from running errands when the least expected happened. Not paying attention, Julie drove off the side of the road and into a canal. After sliding out in the gravel, the front of the car hit a pipe. The two girls sat in shock for a minute trying to grasp what just happened. Julie was holding her head and Katie had her hand over her chest. As Katie stepped out of the car she began to cry.
Katie stated: “At first I didn’t realize how close we came to really being hurt. Either one of us could have died. If we wouldn’t have been wearing our seat belts we would have gone straight through the windshield.” Katie suffered from some bruises on her chest and abdomen, and Julie had a small bump on her forehead from hitting the steering wheel. Both girls walked away with minor injuries and the seat belts they wore protected them from the laws of physics.
Things in motion tend to stay in motion. When someone slams on the brakes or gets into an accident, the car will come to a sudden stop. The driver, too, must come to a stop. But if the driver is not wearing his or her seat belt the only thing left to stop him or her is the dashboard, the steering wheel, or even the pavement (NHTCS 1). For example, in May of 2002, Scott McRoberts, a freshman at Seattle Pacific University, was in a bad car accident and almost lost his best friend, Casey. It was late at night and Scott was asleep in the passenger seat while Casey was driving. Scott recalls hearing a loud bang and waking up to see Casey trying to gain control of the car again.
“I felt the tires come off the ground. I don’t know what, but I hit my head on something. Everything went black,” said Scott. As soon as he came to, he looked to the left to make sure Casey was all right, but he wasn’t there. Scott looked back to the right, out of what was left of the window and saw Casey lying face down on the ground. “Casey was about twenty feet from the car. I screamed out his name as I scrambled to get out of my seat belt. Then I hurried out of the driver side window and ran over to Casey. He was unconscious,” said Scott.
Scott carefully turned Casey over and tried to wake him up. He stared down at his bleeding face. There was a big gash between Casey’s eyes and his nose was broken. His arms and his left leg were banged up and bleeding pretty badly as well. When Casey regained consciousness, he had no recollection of what had just happened. On the way to the hospital Scott recalls crying as he listened to the paramedics in the back. “I heard them say that his lungs had collapsed. They said he had internal bleeding and they weren’t sure he was going to make it,” Scott remembered. Not everyone is as lucky as Casey and Scott to experience a car accident like that and then live to tell about it.
According to NHTCS, nearly two-thirds of the occupants killed in traffic crashes in 2000 were unrestrained (MADD 1). It was a late December night when Camille Mitchell and Tami Archer were on their way back to college in Utah, from Colorado. Camille hit a patch of black ice, and her car spun out of control. As bad timing would have it, a semi came cruising around the corner, and with no time to stop, the semi slammed into Camille’s spinning car. Tami was hospitalized and spent three weeks in a coma, but because she was wearing her seatbelt she survived. Camille, on the other hand, was not buckled up and was killed instantly.
Experts say that teenagers are often the hardest ones to scare into wearing a seat belt. They believe they are unable to be hurt or killed in a crash, so the statistics showing that someone can be killed from not wearing a seatbelt do not even phase them. Safety officials say teenagers are more likely to be moved by a threat that scares them more than death: a traffic ticket. Fines vary around the country; in New York, the fine is up to $50, plus $35 in court costs, for each violation. Drivers are also responsible for passengers under 16 who are caught unbuckled, each counting as a separate violation (Wald 1).
Contrary to the numbers and the various reasons on why one should where a seat belt, people are still making excuses to not where them. The first excuse is “I don’t wear safety belts anymore, now that I have a car equipped with air bags.” Not everyone knows that airbags are designed to work with a safety belt. The air bag will not stop someone from being thrown from the vehicle. The next excuse is “I buckle up most of the time, but not if I am just going to the corner store a few blocks from my house.” However, the risk of getting into a serious crash is just as great when you need to take a quick trip to the store as it is on a longer trip.
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, “We know that 75 percent of all serious motor vehicle crashes occur within 25 miles of a person’s home and 80 percent of deaths and serious injuries occur in cars that are traveling under 40 miles per hour.” Another excuse is “wearing a safety belt wrinkles my clothes.” Think about it, would you rather have wrinkled clothes or a scarred face? The emotional pain and physical suffering that accompanies a serious crash cannot be as easily ironed out. The last excuse is “I’ll never have a crash- I’m a good driver.” While someone may believe himself or herself to be a good driver, this does not mean that a bad driver will not cause an accident (Folch 1).
People need to realize that life is not worth the risk of not buckling up. It is common sense that it only takes two seconds to put on a seat belt, and in a potentially fatal wreck it could be the factor that determines whether a person lives or dies. Not only is there a risk of death, but there is a risk of being caught breaking the law. It is important for safety officials to enforce wearing seatbelts and they have a responsibility to fine those who do not abide by the law. Wearing a seat belt is an important matter and should be taken seriously.