Today, it is second nature for drivers to fasten their seat belts when they get into their cars. I do not recall this culture as I grew up in the early 1990s, at least for the most part.
It was only until it became mandatory to wear one, a practice that is always considered less vis-a-vis more naively important ones like an expired third party insurance sticker.
Unfortunately, there is hardly a deterrent for not wearing a seatbelt today.
On the driver’s part, they are always on the defensive; they say it is uncomfortable or unnecessary as they feel they would never get hurt while doing town driving. They forget that they are not the only drivers on the road.
While technology keeps on advancing, the basic design of the three-point seat belt remains the one introduced by Nils Bohlin, a Swedish inventor, nearly 60 years ago.
With many innovations being replaced, each time new technology comes around, it is nice to see one or two hang around—and continue to save lives.
Five seconds can mean the difference between life and death. That is about the time it takes to fasten your seat belt.
Case of collisions
Do you know how you can tell the difference between people who were wearing their seat belts and those who were not, at the scene of a car accident? The ones who were wearing their seatbelts are standing around saying “Oh my God!”
The ones who were not are lying there, dead. This is not to say that all traffic accidents involving people not fastened up are fatal, or that car occupants with seat belts on are not vulnerable. But if you are playing the odds, it is only logical to think that way.
In a collision, you have three or four sub-collisions all taking place in sequence. First, the car hits some object, another car, tree or wall. The car abruptly slows, but unbelted objects, you that is, inside car continue at the same speed, in the same direction. Then your body hits the interior of the car, and starts to slow. That’s the second collision. That body’s internal organs are still in motion until they hit the inside of the chest.
The fourth collision is when your buddy who was in the back seat on their phone lands on your head, because he or she was not wearing his seatbelt either and he kept moving at the same speed in the same direction. Your imagination can do the rest.
Amazingly petty reasons
But to put it into context, in a crash, a person who is not restrained by a seat belt will continue to travel forward at the speed the car was travelling until something stops him/her. This could be the steering wheel, dashboard or windscreen.
In some crashes, the person may burst through one of the windows and be partially or fully ejected from the car, exposing them to other dangers. They might hit fixed objects or be run over or crushed by their own, or another, car.
The kind of reasons people give for not wearing seatbelts are amazingly petty.
For example one could say, “Hey, I won’t be in an accident: I’m a good driver.” Well, their good driving record will certainly help them avoid accidents.
But even if they are good drivers, a bad driver may still hit them. Another reason could be “they are uncomfortable”.
As a matter of fact, modern safety belts can be made so comfortable that you may wonder if they really work.
You can put a little bit of slack in most belts simply by pulling on the shoulder strap. Others come with comfort clips, which hold the belt in a slightly slackened position.
Most modern cars include a seat-belt reminder light for the driver. Some also include a reminder for the passenger, when present, activated by a pressure sensor under the passenger seat.
Bust the myth
Some cars will intermittently flash the reminder light and sound the chime until the driver (and sometimes the front passenger, if present) fasten their seatbelts.
Some even lock the speed to 10 kph or less. An annoying feature but excellent once you get used.
Seat belts protect people in several ways. They keep the occupants of the car inside.
For many, knowledge of an impending accident instinctively commands them to jump out of the car.
It is clearly a myth that people are better off being thrown from the crash as they are more likely to die than those who remain inside.
It is been proven time and again, how a seat belt can save a life in case of a car accident. And it takes only a few seconds to fasten up once you get in the car. Why would you not?
About seat belts
The chronicle of seat belts is a long one, comprising of slow advances and slow acceptance.
Much of that history featured trial-and-error in designs of different belts, with various attempts finally leading to the one most of us use in cars today. It is the three-point seat belt, offering both shoulder and lap coverage.
According to history.com, prior to 1959, only two-point lap belts were available in cars, the only people who regularly fastened up were race-car drivers.
The two-point belts strapped across the body, with a buckle placed over the abdomen, and in high-speed crashes had been known to cause serious internal injuries.
In 1958, Volvo Car Corporation hired Nils Bohlin, who had designed ejector seats for Saab fighter airplanes in the 1950s, to be the company’s first chief safety engineer.
It was a year later, in 1959, when the first modern three-point belt made its way into cars.
The addition of that position and the introduction of more safety measures at Volvo stemmed in part from a relative of the CEO dying in a car crash. Talk about necessity being the mother of all inventions.
In the interests of safety, Volvo made the new seat belt design available to other car manufacturers for free.
Seat belts curtail the strongest parts of the body by design.
For an older child and adult, these parts are the hips and shoulders, which is where the seat belt should be strapped.
What causes an injury is the quick change in speed. Seat belts help the body to slow down through extension of the time it takes for you to slow down in a crash.
They also prevent the occupant colliding with the interior parts of the car and reduce the risk of being thrown from the car.