The Doctor Discusses Seat Belts
This is a true story. The name of the person involved has been omitted out of respect for his family.
Dabney was reading the newspaper recently and came across a brief article about a rather ironic vehicle crash. According to the Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal of January 4, 2005, a young man was killed when the Ford Explorer in which he was riding spun off an icy section of I80 and rolled several times, landing in a ditch. He was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown out of the vehicle to his death. The two others in the vehicle were wearing seat belts and sustained only non life-threatening injuries.
"Hey Doc," said Dabney, "this article says that the young man was a 21 year-old senior at the University of Nebraska and a writer on the school paper. He was staunchly against seat belt laws and even wrote editorials about the government's intrusion on individual rights in that regard. He claimed to be, in his own words, a 'die-hard non-wearer' of seatbelts. That's ironic, isn't it?"
"Sadly so," replied the Doctor. "This would be funny if it weren't so tragic. There are far too many people out there who won't wear seat belts."
"Isn't there some evidence that seat belts actually cause some people to be killed," asked Dabney? "I'm sure I've read about that somewhere."
"No, what you've got there is an urban legend, my boy," said the Doctor. "Let me explain the truth of the matter."
Dabney poured a cup of coffee, knowing he would be occupied for a while during the doctor's lecture. However, he felt it was worth knowing the truth.
The Doctor continued, "Those against seat belt usage believe that it's safer not to wear one in case the vehicle catches fire or drives into deep water. The actual statistics show that less than one-tenth of one percent of all crashes involve deaths by fire or drowning, which means that the odds are nearly 1000-to-one that it won't happen in a crash in which you are involved. In fact, safety experts say that being restrained actually increases the chances of escape from burning or submerged vehicles, since those not belted in tend to get thrown around so much that they are unconscious."
"Let's get the facts straight," said the Doctor, "In the past 30 years seat/shoulder belts have saved the lives of well over 186,000 people, and these numbers are verifiable through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Every study ever conducted indicates that lap and shoulder belts cut the risk of fatal injury by 40 to 55%, irrespective of speed."
"Let's look at North Dakota, for instance. In 1997, 103 people died in a total of 88 fatal crashes in that state. Of those 103 persons, 77 of them were not wearing seat/shoulder belts. Thirty-four of the 88 crashes were single-vehicle rollovers, which are the most dangerous types of crashes for people not restrained. In those 34 rollovers, 27 people were thrown out of the vehicles and killed. You can find very similar statistics in all states."
"NHTSA states that most crash fatalities result from the force of impact or from being thrown from the vehicle, not from being trapped. All studies show that you are much more likely to survive a crash if you are buckled in. Ejected occupants are over four times as likely to be killed as those who remain inside in a crash."
"So why do so many people believe it's safer not to wear a belt," asked Dabney.
"Well," said the Doctor, "psychologists consulted by safety organizations speculate that many people can't come to grips with mortality. By ignoring safety considerations like seat belts they are subconsciously assuring themselves that death doesn't exist, or that it will never claim them. This is a pretty flimsy premise on which to live your life, wouldn't you say?"
"It sure is, Doc," said Dabney, "and that's why all my cars have seat belts, even the old ones that never were equipped with them. Let's take a ride in one of them."
They got into Dabney's 1940 LaSalle convertible and drove off for a pleasant ride into the country — after buckling their seat belts, of course.