• Defensive Driving Rule #6: Wear Your Seat Belt!

    Without a doubt, seat belts are the most significant safety device ever invented. Seat belts do several things for you. They provide impact protection, they absorb crash forces, and they keep you from being thrown out of the vehicle. Modern vehicles are built with "crumple zones," and seat belts are an integral part of the
    system. The belts hold you in place while the vehicle collapses around your "safe" zone. Belts help keep you in your place, in control, and better able to avoid a crash. Yet for all these benefits, folks have lots of "reasons" why they don't wear them.

    1. "They wrinkle my clothes." Absolutely, they do.

    2. "They're uncomfortable." Maybe so, but you can adjust them so they fit better. If you need to have your belts adjusted to fit, see your dealer.

    3. "I want to be thrown clear of the vehicle in a crash." Oh yes, PLEASE, on my head! By the way, that's the number one cause of death in vehicle crashes.

    4. "I don't want to be trapped if there's a collision, or my vehicle ends up in the water, or on fire." Wearing belts increases the likelihood you will be conscious after impact, less injured, and more able to get out. Seat belt failure or jamming isn't common.

    5. "The government can't tell ME what to do! It's a free country!" Yes, it is. But what about other people's rights? When you don't wear belts and get injured, what happens when your insurance runs out? The public pays your medical bills, that's what. In my state, this costs taxpayers around $35 million a year.

    6. "I've heard of people who were in crashes who would have been killed if they'd been wearing belts." Who says so? Not any safety expert with whom I've ever spoken. If a collision can kill you with a belt on, then you're out of luck without the belt also, unless by a fluke. What I want is good odds. The statistics show that seat belts would prevent roughly 50% of deaths and injuries.

    What about others who ride with you—what if they won't wear belts? I would say no ride for them. In any collision, unbelted passengers become flying objects—you can be injured if you are struck from behind by an unbelted passenger, even with your belt on.

    Here's one last argument. If you are involved in a crash without belts, you may be held partially responsible for your own injuries, even if the other guy is mostly at fault in the crash. The insurance company or a court may rule that X% of your injuries were caused by your failure to protect yourself, and reduce any award by that amount. If your injuries are severe, that can cost you millions.