No safety measure is 100 percent effective, but wearing a seat belt is the cheapest and most effective means we have of preventing deaths, injuries and pain on our highways.
The death toll on our roads is horrendous. The Alabama Department of Public Health says motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people in our state between the ages of 1 and 34. If you are a typical driver in Alabama, there is a 54.1 percent probability that you will be involved in a crash with an injury or a fatality while driving an automobile at some point in your lifetime.
State Trooper statistics from 1971-2009 show more than 1,000 people, on average, die on Alabama streets and highways every year.
That bears repeating. On average, more than a thousand people die on Alabama streets and highways every year.
We understand we are in Alabama, where the state motto is “We Dare Defend Our Rights.” We understand the resentment toward an overreaching government that wants to intrude into our private lives and tell us what to do. As adults, we should have the right to make decisions about our personal safety. We get that.
In fact, most states did not enact mandatory seat belt laws until the federal government threatened to stop sending federal highway funds if they didn’t.
We’ve heard the arguments against wearing a seat belt. Apocryphal stories are common about someone wearing a seat belt who died who would have survived without it, and don’t forget the old saying that when your number is up, it’s up.
But that’s exactly the kind of ignorance that gets people killed.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says front-seat passenger car occupants reduce their risk of fatal injury by 45 percent when they use their seat belts. We like those odds.
The NHTSA estimates child restraints saved 425 lives nationwide in 2006, and air bags saved 2,796 lives that same year. But seat belts were the champions when it came to saving lives. They prevented 15,383 deaths that year, and similarly high numbers every other year statistics are available.
Most driving, and most accidents, occur within 25 miles of home, so it’s best to put on the belt on every trip, not just on longer highway drives.
Studies indicate 80-84 percent of drivers and passengers in most parts of the country are buckling up already. Out west it’s closer to 93 percent. Those are good numbers, but they still leave room for improvement.
You can get a ticket for not wearing a seat belt. But don’t buckle up because it’s the law. Do yourself a favor, and buckle up because it just makes sense.