Back when the seatbelt law went into affect in my state, I was as annoyed as anyone. I would have been more annoyed, however, to have to pay a ticket, so I cultivated the habit. Now it’s just automatic. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Traffic Safety, the habit should become automatic for everyone in the car, not just the driver and front seat passenger.
The department recently conducted a study that shows that back-seat passengers who die in auto accidents are twice as likely to have been riding without their seat belts than their counterparts in the front seat. In 2009, 74 backseat passengers died in Illinois. Of those, only 12 percent were wearing their seatbelts.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that seatbelts save about 13,000 lives a year. If you’re in the front seat, buckling up increases your chances of surviving a crash by 50 percent.
Let’s dial our brains back to high school science class, shall we? You’re sitting in a car that’s moving 60 mph. You are actually moving at that speed as well. Both you and the car have inertia. You’re both going to continue to move until something stops the movement — voluntary or involuntary.
So. Car hits phone pole. The car’s inertia stops. Guess what? Your inertia doesn’t. Give or take a decimal point here or there, you’re going to flying through the windshield at 60 mph unless you’re wearing your seatbelt.
The choices are pretty simple. Cultivate the habit of putting on your seatbelt. Pay fines (and higher insurance premiums) — or die — if you don’t. (And in that case, let’s hope you have good life insurance for the folks you leave behind.)