ASK GARY: What do I need to know about seatbelt safety?
Whenever I talk to my customers about their Volvos, the one thing I can count on them telling me is how much they love the feeling of security they have on the road. Volvo has always been extremely dedicated to safety, not only for its drivers, but for all other drivers as well. The list of safety inventions by Volvo that have become standard feature is quite extensive, but the most notable is the 3-point seatbelt. Making its first appearance in 1959, the 3-point seatbelt was intentionally not patent protected, so that other automakers could incorporate its design into their own vehicles.
Here’s another bit of trivia: according to a survey conducted by the US Department of Transportation, Massachusetts drivers have the lowest rate of seatbelt usage of the entire country. It stands to reason that a seatbelt doesn’t do you much good when it’s not being used, and putting on a seatbelt is one of the simplest and most effective ways to protect yourself during an accident.
Understanding why seatbelts are important requires a bit of physics. When a car gets in an accident, the impact against the other object stops the car, while inertia keeps the driver moving. Seatbelts hold you in place when the car stops moving, ensuring that it isn’t the dashboard or steering wheel that ends up slowing you down. Without a seatbelt, a serious collision runs the risk of throwing the driver out the front window, and out onto the road.
Every year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration runs its “Click It or Ticket” program during Memorial Day weekend as a way to remind drivers to buckle up. And while a costly ticket is already a good reason to wear a seatbelt, it certainly should not be your only motivation. I have asked several people what their reasons for not wearing a seatbelt are, and have found there are some common misconceptions that I’d like to hopefully clear up.
- “I’m only going a short distance/I’m only going to be driving slowly.”
- The majority of collisions happen when driving less than 40 miles per hour, usually very close to home. If anything, low speeds and short distances are an extra incentive to buckle up.
- “If I wear a seatbelt, I’ll get trapped in the car during an accident.”
- Being thrown out of a vehicle is probably the most dangerous situation that could happen. The second impact of hitting the ground (car to car collision is the first) usually throws your body into cement, which is always a losing battle.
- “I have airbags.”
- While airbags do offer some safety protection, your body still has a great deal of time to accelerate without a seatbelt holding you back. Besides, when is too much protection ever a bad thing?
- “It’s uncomfortable.”
- There’s not much I can say about this. Sometimes you just have to deal with it.
The Massachusetts laws regarding seatbelt usage are very basic: barring a medical condition, the only way to get away with wearing a seatbelt is if you’re a postal worker, emergency responder, or own a car made before July of 1966. Everyone else, make sure to buckle up. When your life is on the line, there’s no such thing as being too careful.