Wear a Seat Belt. Seriously.

My morning commute normally takes almost exactly one hour, door to door.

This morning, though, I spent thirty extra minutes sitting in stopped traffic on route 460 while rescue workers and police officers cleaned up an accident.

I had come up on the stopped lanes of traffic about a mile behind the accident, and once we finally passed it, the ambulances had already left, and one pickup truck was on the tow truck. It was evident that the driver of the pickup had somehow hit the embankment on the right and rolled the truck, but I don’t know if another car was involved or not. Probably not.

And I looked, and I thought, “I hope he was wearing his seat belt.”

(In my head, the driver is male.)

I had called my office to let them know I’d be delayed, and when I finally arrived at about 9:30, of course everyone wanted to know what had happened. (When I called, I didn’t know what was blocking traffic but suspected a wreck or a semi breakdown.) So I told them pretty much exactly what I told you – including the line “I hope he was wearing his seat belt.”

A co-worker looked at me and responded, “Why?” and, honestly, it was all I could do not to snap at her. In fact, I had brief fantasies of punching her directly in the face.

Since Ginny’s wreck, it’s true that we’ve been hyperaware of car accidents in the area, but it also happens that, according to local rescue workers we know, this has been a bad year for fatal wrecks.

There have been a lot of accidents around here this year, and the saddest, most frightening part is how similar they are. It’s almost like the media can just recycle the same story over and over again:

John Doe, 25, of X was killed in a car accident on Saturday. Police say Doe lost control of his vehicle, overcorrected, and hit an embankment/oncoming vehicle. Doe, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the car and died at the scene.

My co-worker expressed her belief that wearing a seat belt is really “a crapshoot – a 50/50 chance. Sometimes they help, but just as often they don’t matter.” She went on to tell me about a relative of hers who wrecked while wearing a seat belt, and is now a quadriplegic.

My answer? Living life as a quadriplegic is surely difficult and not ideal, but it’s living life. If she hadn’t had the seat belt on, she probably would have died.

Unfortunately a lot of people seem to have the same mistaken impression as my co-worker, and I find it incomprehensible, sad, and frustrating.

I can quote statistics to you all day long. I can point you to this website or this one or this one or that one or any of these places, and every single one of them will give you compelling evidence that most people involved in fatal accidents did not survive because they were not wearing seat belts, and that wearing seat belts greatly improves your chances of surviving a car accident.

This is common information, easily found with a Google search. But to some people, it doesn’t matter.

Some people don’t like the way seat belts rub against their necks, or the way they wrinkle their clothes. Some people have trouble finding the buckle and just decide to do without. Some people really believe that wearing a seat belt will cut you in half in a car crash, or will trap you in your car. And some people never wear a seat belt, and never even think about putting one on.

I’m sure that many of you reading this fall into one of the above categories, and that few if any of you will admit it. I’ll tell you right now that I have been guilty on a few occasions of not taking the time to dig a seat belt out of the seat crack, and during the entire ride I was sick with fear that something would happen. And that was before the wreck. I don’t do it anymore – in fact, just this weekend I made nine people wait on me while I dug the seat belt buckle out from behind a car seat so that I could wear it on our trip.

I’m psycho about the seat belt. I feel uncomfortable driving without it. I put my seat belt on when I’m changing parking spaces, even. And my entire family is the same way.

I haven’t shown these pictures here, deliberately. But now I’m going to, because I want you to see what my sister survived.

Ginny didn’t brake. She didn’t swerve. There was no time. There was nothing in the world she could have done to prevent what happened that night. She was three minutes from our house, on a clear, dry night, and something happened that we never in a million years would have anticipated.

Yes, she sustained terrible injuries. Yes, we have had a long and difficult journey since the night of March 1st, one that we’re still traveling and will be for some time. But Ginny did not suffer a single serious injury to her arms, head, or torso, and is alive and with us today, because she had a properly functioning airbag, and because she was wearing her seat belt.

I usually can’t permit myself to imagine what would have happened had she decided to go without it that day.

Sometimes we sit at stoplights now and count the number of cars passing with drivers who aren’t wearing seat belts. Usually, it’s at least half, if not more. Sammi sees kids at her school every single day peeling out of the parking lot without seat belts on. And I don’t know what to do about it, and that bothers me a lot.

In our state, and about half of the USA, police officers can only ticket you for not wearing your seat belt if they’ve already pulled you over for another offense. I’m appalled that the Virginia General Assembly has killed a bill, not once, but twice, that would change our current law to a primary seat belt law, where police officers could pull you over just for not wearing your seat belt. They felt such a law was “too intrusive.” I’m also upset that the proposed legislation included a fine of only $25. Studies have shown that not only can a primary seat belt law save the state a minimum of one million dollars in the first year alone, but that the implementation of primary safety belt legislation increases the usage rate of seat belts by an average of eleven percentage points.

That’s a lot. But, you know, it’s too intrusive to require that people wear seat belts when they’re driving.

That attitude needs to change (as do some others regarding seat belts), and I hope to find some way to make that happen. For now, though, if even one of you thinks about this the next time you get in your car, and changes your behavior as a result – well, that’s a start.

Comments 24

  • Hmm many good points here, but the last one I agree with your legislature. It is not the seatbelt wearing that htey are opposed to, but I believe it is the opening carte blanche to officers to pull people over for suspicion of not wearing it. That is what is too intrusive. Giving police that crutch where they can use it to allow for stoppage of drivers for no reason, but to claim they weren't wearing a seatbelt is BS.

    That said wearing a seat belt has a greater impact in saving your life. Yes there is a possibility it can be a negative if your car becomes a flaaming inferno in seconds, but 90%+ of the time it helps rather than hinders.

  • I should have added that the proposed legislation specifically bans officers from conducting any sort of search, seizure, or questioning of people pulled over for seat belt violations.

  • 1. Holy F*king $hit.
    2. I always wear my seat belt in the car – Always. I also make sure everyone else has their's on when I drive. Given that, it is weird, even after months of riding, to consider that there's nothing strapping me down when I ride – esp. during the short stints on the freeway. Of course, I'm not sitting in a cage so there's no way a strap would help but I try and tell myself that, given the unique riding position of a vespa, I don't have to straddle the heavy metal I'm riding and can pretty much launch myself up and away from it should I have the opportunity.
    3. Your co-worker's an insensitive idiot for even bringing her crackpot theories to you – no matter whether she knew about Ginny or not. Tell the b*tch I said so.
    4. You should get a bumper-sticker for your car that reads, “A seatbelt saved my wonderful sister's life.” You know, for encouragement.
    5. I have to also agree that I want cops to arrest me for my harmful behavior and not police my bad choices. We've already got a descrepency btwn “Whites” and “Minorities” who are stopped because a tail-light is out and the searched, detained, intimidated, etc. In Texas, the helmet law is, “He who rides, decides.” Now, you've got to show you've got so much ins. and some basic motorcycle skills but I don't want a cop pulling me over 'cause I went without one day.
    6. Holy f*king $hit.

  • well, that makes a difference but, still, policing our choices is like a little heavier than I like the state to get.

  • i'm so glad my mom always told me to wear my seatbelt, since it doesn't bother me to wear it now.

    those pictures are INSANE. my first reaction was “i hope ginny was okay with that” and i'm sure she was. the second, “did they cut the metal away to get ginny out?”

    also, most new cars have shoulder belts in the back as well as front, which helps to cut down on the paralyzing that can result with a lap belt.

    i need to get a doggie seat belt for wrigs now, too.

  • “I don't want a cop pulling me over 'cause I went without one day.”

    you also probably don't want to have your scalp re-attached when you crash, which has happened to some bikers i know.

    i have a friend who hit an unmarked speedbump on a moped at about 35 mph (A speed i imagine you hit on your scooter) and almost died–and would have if he had been like so many riders who don't wear helmets.

    i support mandatory helmet laws, because i think that sometimes, you SHOULD police the bad choices. make it not a choice.

  • woo. so i was driving, with my friend kalie in the passenger seat…and i looked over at saw she didnt have her seat belt on. and damn, i LET HER HAVE IT. screaming here and there, and then i had to point at a police car and yell “i hope he sees you!” and screamed about how if i got in a wreck, and she was hurt, it would have been my fault. i cant agree with you more. i hate people

  • Count me in as a supporter. I didn't have an airbag when I was hit head on. There is no chance I would have lived without the seat belt.

  • When I was a Senior in High School two guys in my class got in an accident with a jeep that had a broken roll over bar. Neither had their seatbelts. One of them almost lost an arm that was pinned under the jeep as it slid across the pavement, the other almost died from head trauma. If they wore their seatbelts they would've walked away from the accident, instead they had a long summer of rehab. I've worn my seatbelt ever since.

  • I'm psycho about seatbelts too. The way I see it though, is that if you're stupid enough not to wear one, then the process of Survival of the Smartest should kick in. The less dumbasses we have, the better.

  • jim, Yeah, I know all about the horror stories and, of course, we wanna believe that they'll make us a better/safer person. …I think all about it all the time – my Vespa does 70+. A friend of mine saw a guy debowelled when he went over the handle-bars of his crotchrocket just pulling on to the freeway. I think his helmet made it through okay. I work with DBIA (Dallas Brain Injury Association); one contact was a concert pianst who was wearing her belt but was just so small she didn't come out okay anyway. *Which is why it drives me nuts when I see some girls driving with their boobs and elbows resting on the steering well. Geez, Get away from that thing!* The other has a serious injury (talking and walking affected) just from stepping on his porch wrong one morning.
    Point is, we all care and we can all be safer, I just don't want a cop chasing me down because, say, I put my helmet on a girl I gave a ride to…
    Looks like ChubbyChic missed out on the sad inclusion of information about the high-school kids that caused the wreck that were such close friends of the rest of the l. family.

  • I don't know if they were wearing their seatbelts or not, but <a href=”http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~11676~2335804,00.html

  • i'm the exact same way you are. i got into a nasty car accident my junior year of high school and if i wasn't wearing my seatbelt, i would've died. ever since then, i think cars would be better if the engine wouldn't turn on unless the driver was wearing his/her seatbelt. of course, that will never happen because the world is not perfect.

    i hope ginny is doing better.

  • Yes I was ok with the pictures and article, and yes they did have to cut me out. The Jeep is designed to crumple like it did on a front impact to save you from having the engine in your face. Wear your seatbelt and don't speed. Thank you.

  • Damn straight everyone one should wear seatbelts! I live in Australia and it is against the law to drive without a seatbelt unless you are reversing. It's an on the spot ticket and $50 fine, and they don't need another reason to pull you over. Seat belts are important – it's a law of physics that if the car suddenly stops, the objects inside keep moving at the same speed until they come to their own stop. That's what the seatbelt does. It stops you from flying out the windscreen. I hope anyone who doesn't wear a seatbelt smartens up!

  • I am constantly amazed at how many people I know of don't wear seatbelts. And also, at how many times I've been called a dork for insisting that I be sitting somewhere in the car that has a working seatbelt. Katrina's ex roommate Kim didn't have any in the back of her Jeep, and every time we rode somewhere with her, I would throw a big fit until I got to sit in front. Kim thought I was such a loser. I didn't fucking care. People are so ignorant.

  • I used to think that an air bag would suffice. Then our much beloved next door neighbor died in a crash 1/4 mile from our house in a head on crash. Her air bag deployed perfectly, but she went over top of it. If she had been belted in, she would be alive today.
    I have heard many, many of the same such incidents from emergency personnel since, so I've changed my mindset completely.

  • I was terrible about wearing my seatbelt for years. Then in one year (1994), I got cited twice for driving without a seatbelt (once when I had no other infraction). For the last decade, I've worn the belt dutifully. I do hope that Virginia does change the law; I do believe that it is the law, more than anything else, that compels me to buckle up everytime.

    Great post, Lorie.

  • '~A', what makes you think I missed the sad inclusion? :P

  • Hey! I just want you to know that I support your argument. All throughout High School, I was involved in a club, and our goal was to try to get more people to buckle up in our high school and in the community. Half the time, it just seemed like people weren't listening and thought we were being the stupid. The few who did listen was just an encouragement to us. Now I'm in college, and i'll hopefully be able to do something in the college community to try to get people to buckle up and drive safely.

  • Lori, YOU GO GIRL!! The whole time I was involved with MONETA RESCUE 8 (The best inthe county, by the way) I preached and preached and preached. I hope and pray that your message reaches far and wide. You and Ginny and the rest of my Hoover-fam are in my prayers always.

  • I agree with you Lori, when I was younger that one day I forgot to wear my seatbelt, I was in a wreck, hit the windsheild and then slammed back into my seat! I had a cut on my forehead, punctured left lung and two broken bones in my ankle! I survived and not that much damage, my scar is pretty much invisble, but the scar inside is still there, and from this day on I wear my seatbelt, all I can say was someone was watching over me that march morning and someone was watching over your sister God Bless :)

  • […] obesity is another story.  And finally, there are those who think that seatbelts are just “a crapshoot – a 50/50 chance.”  They say, “Sometimes they help, but just as often they don’t […]

  • I loved this post. I actually cited it when I wrote my own blog post on seat belts. I also have had people very close to me involved in car wrecks as well, and it is evident that seat belts are very helpful to one’s safety.

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