When my daughter started driving, I was scared to death. Talking to her and many of her friends, I heard some awful reasons why they did not want to wear seatbelts. I was also shocked that those who wore seatbelts were doing it just to avoid a fine!
Highway signs where I live warn, “Wear a seatbelt of wear a fine”. This makes young people think that the police are out to get people who are not wearing seatbelts so that is the best reason to wear one. In a way, I believe the authorities are promoting negative thinking about seatbelts with their choice of advertisements. Instead of teaching people it is important to take care of themselves and wearing a seatbelt can preserve their lives, they scare them into doing it to avoid punishment.
Yes, I know, I have heard it many times before, “Ronit, you do not understand. People respond better to punishment than to their health or their safety”, but I believe that when young people do not understand they should be wearing seatbelts for their safety, they get into their car and come up with a million excuses not to wear them.
Why can they not advertise it as, “Your seat belt is your guardian angel”? Why can they not advertise it as “Your seatbelt is your savior”? Why can they not write, “Your seatbelt is your personal bodyguard”?
If you are a parent and you know your kids will be drivers one day, please, please make sure you change the accident rate by taking the time to explain to your kids that seatbelts are angels and they can save a whole family from devastation and heartache. Teach your kids that they are precious and that avoiding punishment is not the real reason to wear a seatbelt.
Young drivers come up with many excuses why they should not wear a seatbelt. Those excuses are always a sign that people do not understand why they should wear it. Parents need to take every possible opportunity to teach their kids one of the most important lessons in staying alive. Being smart after someone gets hurt is just too late. Accidents are the leading cause of death for people under the age of 35. Believe it or not, seatbelts could prevent half of these deaths. If you have a kid under the age of 35 and you want them alive, it is a good idea to convince them to wear a seatbelt.
Here are some of the reasons young people come up with (and, unfortunately, grownups too) not to wear a seatbelt and what you can tell them to help them realize they should wear a seatbelt for their own protection.
The most popular reason is: “I am a good driver”. As much as I believe we should think good things about ourselves and I do believe this can make us better drivers, I do not think we can, purely by thinking good things about ourselves, influence others’ ability to drive. If someone else is a bad driver and they hit you, your driving abilities are not going to help you much, but wearing a seatbelt will!
“It is uncomfortable” is another common reason people give for not wearing a seatbelt, when in fact, modern cars have a device that can loosen them around your shoulder. In an accident, the sudden speed will lock the seatbelt and protect you from smashing into your window. Do you know how uncomfortable it is to wear a parachute before jumping out of an airplane or what a pain it is to collect it after you have landed safely? But would you jump without one?
“Why do I need a seatbelt? I have an airbag” – It is wonderful you have an airbag but the air bag cannot save you when you are hit from the side. Do you have immunity from side impacts? Statistically, air bags increase the effectiveness of the safety belt by 40%. Would you not want to be 40% safer?
“I am only going to the gas station, 2 minutes from here” – Many people believe that there is some confidence or added protection when they are driving within their close environment when in fact 80% of all accidents happen within 25 miles (40km) of home. So if you are driving somewhere close to your home, you need a seatbelt even more, because you have a better chance of getting hurt.
“I drive slowly” – 80% of accidents happen when driving less than 40mph (64kph). This is how it works: when driving only 15mph and the front of your car hits something, you keep moving forward at the same speed for the first tenth of a second until you are stopped by an object – your windshield, your steering wheel or your dashboard. This is all it takes for you to hit them – one tenth of a second. The hit is equivalent to the impact on you if falling from a three storey building. Do you see now how a seat belt could save your life? How often do you drive 15mph (24kph)?
“I am afraid to be trapped in the car in an accident” – Many people, who watch too many movies, are afraid to be trapped in their cars during an accident. In fact, it is better to be inside a car during an accident than outside it. If you are thrown out of your car (because you are not wearing a seatbelt), you are 25 times more likely to die. Only a very small percentage of accidents involve fire, unlike what is portrayed in movies.
Your kids are precious. One day they will be drivers and you might not be able to protect them from getting in an accident, but you can make sure that if they do get hurt, their seatbelt will be their guardian angel.
As always, the best way to lead the way is by wearing a seatbelt wherever you go, making sure your kids do too and talking to them about the real reasons for wearing seatbelts.
Heaven can wait. Belt up!