State’s seat belt laws help save lives — believe me I know

Published 1:33 pm Thursday, August 1, 2013

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal


Seat belt laws are not unnecessary in my opinion, nor do I feel they are an infringement of our rights. I believe if more people obeyed them, more lives would be saved.

“….was killed when the 2004 Pontiac Grand Am he was driving left the roadway and overturned…was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.”

I cannot say how many accident reports I see from State Troopers which include a statement that the driver or passenger in a fatal accident was not wearing a seat belt, as does the one above.

The above quote is from an actual report that came to me from the Department of Public Safety recently. And I get them nearly every day.

The sad thing is that many of the fatal accident reports I’ve received, including reports concerning fatal accidents in Lowndes County, include the person was not wearing a seat belt statement.

Many people argue that seat belt laws are an infringement on the rights of adults to decide whether to take care of themselves or not.  That our freedoms are being taken from us by an over reaching government.

In my opinion, the law was passed to help keep down the cost of automobile and medical insurance by making sure people wear seat belts if only to avoid a ticket. And, as a result, the law actually saves lives.

What is the law?

According to the Alabama Department of Public Safety, “Each front seat passenger of a passenger car shall have a safety belt properly fastened about his/her body any time the vehicle is in motion.” The fine is $25 for adults and children.

The Department of Public Safety also reports that wearing seat belts reduce the risk of death for adult drivers by 45 percent and car seats and booster seats reduce the risk of death by 54 percent for toddlers and 71 percent for infants.

According to Sgt.Steven Jarrett of the Alabama Department of Pubic Safety, “State Troopers say approximately 60 percent of the traffic fatalities they investigate are not wearing seat belts when seat belts are available.” He said passengers on motorcycles, in truck cargo beds, pedestrians, etc. are excluded since seat belts are not available to them.

Need more convincing? How about these facts from the Alabama Department of Public Health:

•Lap/shoulder safety belts, when used correctly, reduce the risk of moderate to critical injury by 50 percent.

•Every hour someone in America dies because they were not wearing a seat belt. •The death rate for people wearing seat belts in crashes is one in 732 while the rate for those unrestrained is one in 40.

•People ejected from cars are more likely to be killed than those restrained in their seats.

Hospital costs for unbelted crash victims are about two-and-one-half to five times higher than for belt wearers.

•Unbelted crash victims have higher insurance claims, which raises insurance premiums for everyone.

We have freedom of speech, but you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater.

But why do I personally think there should there be a seat belt law?

I can say from my own experience, people do dumb things. I remember when I was first learning to drive in the late 60s there were no seat belts in the car, I slammed on the brakes and my father, who was teaching me, hit his head on the rearview mirror.

When I was in college, I was on my way home on a back road when I spotted a dead dog lying in the middle of the road. The dog was quite large and bloated. When I tried to go around, my car caught some loose gravel on the side of the road and put me in a spin. I flipped the vehicle, which wound up on its roof at the bottom of a steep drop.

As my car turned over in midair, I could see the trees and the world going upside down. I could hear the sound of glass shattering and metal groaning. And I could feel the seat belt cutting into my stomach as it held me in place.

I did not always wear a seat belt in those days, but that day I did. And I must say the police and others who responded to the scene of my accident said had I not been wearing a seat belt I would have been dead. People who arrived at the scene and who did not know I had climbed out of the car through a side window, actually said, “Wow. That guy must be dead.”

Not that I needed any more warnings to wear a seat belt since then, but because of the seat belt laws and efforts by police and State Troopers to enforce them, as well as that nagging alarm bell that goes of if I don’t, I wear my seat belt every time I drive.

So, my recommendation is not to complain about a law that is place to help save lives, but obey the law and wear a seat belt every time you drive.