Seat Belts: All About the Benefits, Counterarguments and Rebuttals
Automobiles have come a long way from the first cars in the late Eighteen hundred’s to modern days. Everything from shape, design, build, engine and safety features have come into play. One important feature that should focus on in every automobile is safety. Most automobiles today are passenger vehicles meaning they not only carry an operator but passengers as well.
In today’s world, there are many obstacles that can cause accidents with automobiles from the number of drivers on the road, driving under the influence and many more. Seatbelts have become a big controversy over the years and in 1983 seatbelts became a mandatory law for front passengers. Many people are against seatbelts, and many still do not wear seatbelts. Seat belt laws were put in place to protect its citizens, but there are those who feel it is abusing their Constitutional Rights. This essay is to prove there is no abuse to any citizens rights, which seat belts save lives and the United States is trying to protect its citizens and future generation.
Seat Belt Enforcement Matters
Father and son finish up working on some fencing and decide to run up to the gas station to get some cold beverages and snacks. They jump in the truck with no seat belts and take off for the 8 minute drive. On the way there a young teenager is driving an ATV on the gravel road going way to fast right down the middle. Father swerves off into the ditch hitting a tree and the son is ejected through the window. The teen on the ATV rolls off the opposite side. The father wakes up to find his son motionless on the ground outside. This is a situation that should never happen. According to a study by Progressive insurance, 52% of auto accidents happen within five miles of a home.
People often tend to relax and go on “auto-pilot” when they are on familiar streets and roads. (Sawaya Law, 2016) It is no secret that seatbelts have become a big controversy in our country. Almost every highway will have smart signs over them saying “Click it or Ticket” or “Buckle up, it’s the law”. Vehicle safety has changed dramatically over the last several decades and this has caused the issue of seatbelt enforcement. Seatbelts have proven to save lives over the years and have shown more need in recent years with the change in the way cars are designed and built and the fact that there are approximately two-thirds more cars on the road than there were thirty years ago. These changes are why seatbelts are part of the law and should be enforced.
First of all, cars from thirty plus years ago were made much bigger. These cars were bulkier and heavier than cars that are driven today. The frames were made of a much thicker steel that was very heavy and sturdy. Manufacturers felt that safety didn’t sell cars, styling and performance did. Chevrolet emphasized styling and performance in advertising during the same year and outsold Ford by 190,000 cars, nearly three times its 1955 margin. (Harris, 1996) When involved in an impact, there was not usually as much damage as what cars today achieve.
The early automobile design had extremely rigid bodies that were resistant during an accident withstanding deformity to the body, however, all the force was transferred to the occupants usually being fatal. (Raiciu, 2017) It wasn’t until 1953 that the first crumple zones were implemented on vehicles. Car seats for young passengers were rarely used and sometimes were nonexistent. There were more injuries in serious impacts because of the lack of crumple zones to protect the passenger.
When a forceful impact occurred, passengers would be thrown through windows or severely whiplashed possible injuring themselves from hitting their head on something or just being thrown around in the car. Cars of the past also didn’t have air bags to help break the force of the impact. The rate of crash deaths per 100 million miles traveled increased from 1.15 in 2015 to 1.18 in 2016. This rate is a little more than one-third the all-time high rate of 3.36 in 1980. (IIHS/HLDI, 2016)
Now in today’s world, cars have evolved quite a bit just as society has. Newer cars have a design that give them crumple zones like an accordion, so that when they are hit, the force of the impact is mostly held to the outside of the car, protecting the passengers. Isaac Newton’s two laws of physic are necessary to explain why crumple zones work. The first law states that an object in motion will stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force and the second states that force equals mass multiplied by acceleration.
Placed at the front and rear of the car, they absorb the crash energy developed during the impact which is achieved through deformations and the cabin is strengthened with high-strength steel and more beams. They also delay the collision by increasing the time before the vehicle comes to a halt. (Raiciu, 2017) The outside frames of cars today are built with a much thinner steel. This makes them much lighter for better gas mileage as well as faster speeds. In today’s world, with all the new advanced technology, cars also have airbags with warning lights that are set to a specific weight limit because their impact can cause serious injury if the passenger is too small.
Air bags are designed to work with seat belts, not to replace them. Without the seatbelt, you could be thrown forcefully into a rapidly opening airbag and severely injured or killed. (NHTSA, 2018) There are also seatbelt lights and warning alarms if the seatbelts are not in use. The seats of cars have a built-in scale that senses if there is a body or a certain weight in the seat that should be protected. Many cars also have video surveillance built into the dashboard that has cameras at front, side and back angles of the vehicle. This surveillance system can sense when the vehicle is approaching an object to closely and begins warning the driver of possible impacts.
The technology that has been built into automobiles is ever growing and does not seem to be slowing. Seatbelt laws are put into effect because even with all these safety advances, a life is never worth losing. Car seat laws for younger passengers are in effect because young minds shouldn’t have to choose life or death, the operator of the vehicle should always be aware that all passengers within their vehicle are safely secured. Remember that as parents, that is the strongest influence when it comes to modeling safe driving practices, including buckling up every time you get into a car. (NHTSA, 2018)
Lastly over the last several decades, the population has greatly increased with a rising number in drivers of all ages. With the population growth and the generation change, there has been a great increase in carelessness, young and old. More automotive drivers are taking risks out of neglect. The need for entertainment, driving under the influence or without a license at all and putting safe motorists in danger. Teenage drivers are more likely than older drivers to not use seatbelts, drive while intoxicated or with a person who is intoxicated, speed, make wrong turns or run red lights. (CDC, 1999)
It does not matter how safe any vehicle operator thinks, it is always the unsafe motorists that are least expected, and the safe ones need to be prepared for. Rather a motorist is safe or not, a seatbelt is there to protect whomever is behind the wheel and in the vehicle. If licensed motorists can get in a car and operate it with no issues, then there should be respect for the seatbelt ruling. Motorists should commend the legislation for better trying to protect its citizens rather than letting them run amuck with no concern for the other.
Seatbelts have proven to save lives over the years and have shown more need in recent years with the change in the way cars are designed and built and the fact that there are approximately two-thirds more cars on the road than there were thirty years ago. There is substantial evidence that proves the decrease in auto fatality due to seat belt usage and statistics don’t lie.
Most vehicle occupants that are killed are unrestrained, and 53% that were killed in 2009 alone were not wearing seatbelts. Seatbelt use was on the rise from 11% in 1981 to 85% in 2010, but there are still around 1 in 7 people not buckling up. Seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45% and cut the risk of serious injury by 50% according to the CDC. (CDC, 2014) The results and statistics are unquestionable that seatbelts save lives.
Counterargument 1 and Rebuttal
John Adams, a risk expert and a professor at University College of London, is opposed to seat belt laws. He feels that it makes drives feel safer so they attempt things that they might not if they weren’t safely strapped in a car. He compares it to a trapeze artist and rather they have a net, or they don’t. They might not be so creative in their acts with no net to save them, or they may be daring and put on a real show if they know there’s a net to protect them from sudden death. (Bjerklie, 2006)
People will look at the risk compensation of the act, is the risk greater than the reward? However, it doesn’t matter how safe a driver is, with or with out the seat belt on; there is always going to be that one factor that comes into play, the other driver or force of nature that is not playing safe and causes an accident. Now there are injuries, maybe even deaths that didn’t have to happen because people chose not to wear a seat belt.
Counterargument 2 and Rebuttal
David Veksler wrote an article called ‘The One Minute Case Against Mandatory Seat Belt Laws.’ Veksler states that it is going against our Thirteenth Amendment Rights and that the government is forcing ownership over us. He also compares his statements to the Nazi and Communist Parties. Veksler also feels that “there is no logical end to laws that replace individual judgment with politically-mandated notions of what risks we are and are not allowed to take.” (Veksler, 2007)
But there is no thought process here to protect those who are hurt by these risks that one wants to take. Seat belts are not a personal preference, a style or a status quo. Seat belts save lives and protect the children of the future generation, and that is what the United States is trying to point out. The United States is not trying to take any Amendment rights away and be in any way comparable to a Nazi or Communist Party, more so trying to protect its people.
Years of change make differences in all that society does and in the way society thinks. Even in transportation and safety protocols, there is continual change and arguments. This argument is for the good of the people. A society that came from large heavy cars that carried passengers with no seatbelts or car seats has ceased to exist. Life matters, rather operating a vehicle or not. Vehicular deaths are on a continual decrease from years past, and it will only continue as things improve. Change is a good thing, especially when it improves the quality of life of all involved.
As time moves on, things will continue to change and improve, and operating vehicles could resemble riding in a bubble. Without change, the world will never know. There is no stopping those with risky behavior or the need for excitement, but the power to protect ourselves from them is crucial. There is no need for death and severe injuries when we have the power to prevent it and the law requiring the usage only saves lives that much more.
Seatbelts have proven to save lives over the years and have shown more need in recent years with the change in the way cars are designed and built and the fact that there are approximately two-thirds more cars on the road than there were thirty years ago. With the change in design, the technology, the build of automobiles, the increase in population and transportation, it is essential for the safety of the driver and the passengers to utilize the seatbelt in addition to the new features that most automobiles entail. They all work together hand in hand.
- (Sawaya Law, 2016)12 Fascinating Car Accident Statistics [Infographic]. (2018, April 05). Retrieved from https://www.sawayalaw.com/2016/11/auto-accident-statistics-infographic/
- (IIHS/HLDI, 2016) General statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/general-statistics/fatalityfacts/overview-of-fatality-facts
- Harris, D. L. (1996, June 26). 1964 BROUGHT SEAT BELTS FOR EVERY BUYER. Retrieved from http://www.autonews.com/article/19960626/ANA/606260818/1964-brought-seat-belts-for-every-buyer
- Raiciu, T. (2017, October 18). How Crumple Zones Work. Retrieved from https://www.autoevolution.com/news/how-crumple-zones-work-7112.html
- (NHTSA, 2018) A. (2018, April 23). Seat Belts. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/seat-belts
- Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999 Motor-Vehicle Safety: A 20th Century Public Health Achievement. (1999, May 14). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4818a1.htm
- Policy Impact: Seat Belts. (2014, January 21). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/seatbeltbrief/index.html
- Bjerklie, D. (2006, November 30). The Hidden Danger of Seat Belts. Retrieved from http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1564465,00.html
- (Veksler, 2007) The One Minute Case Against Mandatory Seatbelt Laws. (2007, May 21). Retrieved from http://oneminute.rationalmind.net/mandatory-seatbelt-laws/