by Rebekah Pugh
I am a daughter. My family and I were affected by the choices of others. On Friday, December 11, 2015, my father was in a car accident. The accident took place in Hagerstown, Maryland. This was the result of another driver who was texting and driving. The other driver swerved to avoid hitting the tractor-trailer in front of them and ended up hitting my father and his best friend head-on. Ironically, the driver who caused the accident only came out with some scratches. But unfortunately, my father could not say the same. That day he chose to not wear his seatbelt. Thus, resulting in a shattered hip and plenty of open facial wounds. My father’s close friend who was also in the car decided to wear his seatbelt and only had to suffer a few broken toes. This accident was right before Christmas, which meant for the holidays my father wasn’t able to do much with us. This also put my family under a lot of financial stress due to the medical bills and him being unable to work. Even though the accident wasn’t his fault, he made a choice that day that affected not only him but our entire family.
Seat Belts were made to protect people when in a vehicle. In most states, it is required by law to wear a seatbelt when in a car. However, this is a huge problem all around the U.S. Many people believe that nothing is going to happen to them if they don’t wear their seatbelts and it makes them uncomfortable. Approximately 1 in 7 adults do not wear their seatbelt when going on any type of trip.¹ According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seat belts have saved around 14,955 people during an accident in 2017.² Seatbelts have a very important role. There was a problem and a bunch of people worked very hard to create a solution. The NHTSA in 2019, also states that out of 22,215 people killed in a motor vehicle accident 47% of those people were not wearing seatbelts.² Even if you are only going right down the street it is always advised that you wear a seatbelt. It only takes once to not wear your seatbelt and be in an accident.
Everyone may have a different opinion on seat belts, however, they were made for a reason. Before seat belts, there were plenty of accidents involving people being ejected through their windows and causing severe damage. Some people even go as far as turning off their seat belt warnings in their cars. Seems like a lot of work when you could just use something that will save your life. The sound is meant to be annoying because it bothers you enough to put it on.
The federal government requires all cars to have a seatbelt, airbags, anti-lock brakes, and other mechanisms in order to keep all passengers safe in the event of an accident.³ However, they have left it up to each state to choose whether or not they enforce the use of this system. All states, except New Hampshire, required both adults in the front seat to wear a seatbelt. However, only 32 states require adult back-seat passengers to use their seat belts.⁴ There are also separate laws that are created by the federal government specifically regarding children. All companies who make car seats print the age requirements and seatbelt directions on the car seat and have them in the instructions.
Each state has a different opinion about seatbelts and seatbelt laws, this can be confusing when traveling. But, you are surely able to tell which states have a stronger opinion. For example, when you enter Virginia there are signs that say “buckle up Virginia”, “state law, buckle up”, or even “click it or ticket”. There are also electronic overhead signs that always have something different regarding seat belts. You are able to really tell that the state of Virginia enforces the safety that seat belts provide.
The National Organization for Youth Safety (NOYS) is an organization that supports the use of seatbelts. They have what is called the NOYS Seatbelts Save Challenge which is also sponsored by General Motors. This challenge runs from October 2020 – February 2021 and it is meant to educate teens on the safety of motor vehicles and wearing seatbelts. Within high school, students will spend four weeks learning about seatbelt safety. There are engaging activities made by each school to participate in during this campaign. Each school also has a chance to participate and for those who do, there is a possibility of winning $500-$1500 worth of different prizes. These prizes are given out to schools that show the highest seat belt use rate by the end of the challenge.⁵ When outside organizations create challenges like this it seems to be more intriguing to some people and especially teens. This can also make people feel less pressured by the government to do something and rather make the better choice because they have learned that it is safer.
If you have learned that wearing a seatbelt is not important, I assure you that it is. Do not let a small inconvenience cause you to lose a family member, friend, or become injured yourself. Wearing a seatbelt no matter how uncomfortable it is, will most likely save your or someone else’s life one day. Make the right decision and save yourself. Teach those around you to do the same.
Encourage schools around you to participate in the NOYS challenge. When teens and others are educated in a fun way it encourages them to follow through with what they have learned. Safety is key. Everyone should know the risks.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Adult Seat Belt Use. CDC website. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/seatbeltuse/index.html. Published January 2011. Accessed September 26, 2021.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Seat Belts. NHTSA website. https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/seat-belts. Accessed September 26, 2021.
Consumer Reports. Guide to Car Safety Features. CR website. https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/04/guide-to-safety-features/index.htm. Published June 2016. Accessed September 26, 2021.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Seat Belts. IIHS website. https://www.iihs.org/topics/seat-belts. Accessed September 26, 2021.
National Organisation for Youth Safety. Seat Belts Save 2021. NOYS website. https://noys.org/resources/challenges-contests/seat-belts-save. Accessed October 23, 2021.