Seatbelts Are Unsafe
Seatbelts are widely considered a great thing for society that save many lives every year, and I wouldn’t argue that they definitely do save a lot of people when used correctly. That being said, while some people believe that they are safe and can save lives in the event of an accident, others argue that they can cause serious injuries and even death in certain cases. When thought is put into it in an abstract way, one will come to understand that seatbelts often times lower peoples inhibitions and makes them less prepared for collision. For this reason, it is not a completely absurd idea to suggest that seatbelts really no not do all that much to prevent risk, and risk often results in danger. Additionally, seatbelts cause people to drive more erratically and pose more of a danger to themselves and others. This whole argument really boils down to how somebody would define the word “risk”, as some people have different definitions than others. For that reason, for the sake of this argument I believe it is important that we understand and potentially reconsider what risk means for most people.
Risk is generally defined as a chance or possibility of danger, loss, or injury. Typically, risk is bad. Risk is something that somebody want to avoid as much as they possibly can when driving; which is exactly why seatbelts are dangerous. Once one feels safe, they lose their regard for their own safety, and therefore, are at a larger risk for danger. A drivers job is obviously to get from point A to point B with as little risk of danger as possible to themself and their passengers. In doing so, the driver wouldn’t want anything that would make them lose their sense of protection or to lower their ability to react. Humans are intrinsically protective of themselves when they are vulnerable. Taking this vulnerability away causes many people to become less focused, more easily distracted, and most importantly, more at risk. At the end of the day, risk is something that most people go out of their way to avoid, but the truth is that there are a lot of hidden risks in this world. Nobody would assume at first glance that wearing a seatbelt may pose more of a risk to somebody than driving without one, but the correct answer is not always the first one that appears. That being said, while risk is not always avoidable, I would prefer to always have the best chance instinctually to make the decisions or the maneuvers to keep myself and my passengers safe. When we break down what risk is, by its definition, we see that seatbelts cause drivers of vehicles a greater deal of risk than not having one because they give drivers a false sense of security.
A study was recently conducted in Kuwait testing what exactly it was that resulted in collisions on the road, it was found that a vast majority of the accidents were a result of human error, which can be attributed to losing ones sense of safety and becoming distracted. “The relationship between factors that contribute to human error and road transport accident also determined. Data were collected from 80 respondents. Plus, observational technique was conducted at two roads chosen in Pahang and Terengganu. The questionnaire results concluded that there had association between factors that contribute to human error and road transport accident.” (Adibah) This study shows us that human nature will always triumph over human invention. At the end of the day, that is what this argument boils down to. Those that are more willing to place their faith in their intrinsic human instincts than a man made machine will agree that wearing a seatbelt can present somebody with a greater risk than not wearing one.
In one instance, a 49-year old man with no underlying medical illness was killed when he got into an accident and his seatbelt compressed against his neck. The ironic thing about it is that if that man lived, he would probably be so very grateful that he wore that seatbelt. Who wouldn’t be initially? At first glance, it is the seatbelt that saved them. At a closer glance, however, one can see that wearing the seatbelt caused them a much greater deal of risk than if they were without one. This is not even just seen in collisions of lower power/damage, as the man who was killed by his seatbelt when he would have otherwise been perfectly fine without one, was driving 110 kilometers per hour. Getting in a crash at 110 kilometers per hour was not enough to kill him, but the unpredictability and uncertain risk of his seatbelt certainly was. The one true way to truly mitigate day-by-day risk would be to begin driving without a seatbelt. In my opinion, if we limit our risk, we increase our safety, and as I have explained, not wearing a seatbelt is the ultimate way to limit risk while driving. Following that process, the safest way for somebody to get from point A to point B would be without a seatbelt, rather than with one.
Another thing to note is how much somebodies risk of dying or getting injured in a crash decreases when the speed decreases. When do people drive faster, with a seatbelt, or without one? Assuming most people drive slower without their seatbelts on, this fact alone probably saves thousands of people a year. Without the fear of the potential repercussions that may arise from getting into a collision without a seatbelt on, the likelihood of getting into one significantly increases. At the end of the day, we just have to decide that it is more worth it to lower our risk of getting into an accident at all than increasing our risk by preparing for the accident. In wearing a seatbelt, it is almost as if somebody is welcoming a collision. People do something that will make getting in an accident more common, but they do it in order to mitigate the damages of said accidents. That is one of the most counter-intuitive things imaginable, even more so than neglecting to wear a seatbelt for the purpose of increasing safety.
The effectiveness of seatbelts is not nearly as cut and dry as one might first be led to believe. There are lots of different factors to be taken into account when judging whether they actually save people or not. First of all, seatbelts really aren’t saving all that many people per year anyway. At least, not nearly as many as the figure would lead the public to believe. Many of the people who were “saved by seatbelts” would have been perfectly fine had they not worn one. Another thing to keep in mind is that seatbelts have only been shown to be effective when they are worn correctly. Not only this, but when they are worn incorrectly, it actually makes it more likely for a person to get injured in an accident. Additionally, wearing a seatbelt provides drivers with a false sense of security, which in turn causes them to lower their senses and inhibitions, making them more likely to end up in a collision. Considering all of these elements, I think it is safe to say that seatbelts cause drivers of vehicles to become more vulnerable to an accident.
Contrary to what many might believe, statistics are not necessarily on the side of the seatbelt. According to the NHTSA, of the 37,133 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, 47% of them were not wearing their seatbelts (Medium). This means that more than half of them WERE wearing the seatbelts that were supposed to save their lives. This leads us to one question. If seatbelts are not making people safer, how come the amount of motor vehicle deaths has declined recently? We can reasonably infer that the reason this number has gone down is due to better technological advancements, more safety regulations and other outside factors.
Ultimately, people want seatbelts to work. They want to feel safer in their cars. However, staying with this naive mindset is giving people a false sense of security while driving. A lot of people think that they are invincible while driving. This is because they are so used to wearing seatbelts and not having to worry about having their life and other peoples lives in their hands.
Another thing that makes seatbelts dangerous is their locking mechanic. Anybody who has ever worn a seatbelt knows this. After trying to pull the seatbelt too fast, it freezes up, or locks in place. This is to prevent people from going flying when they get into an accident, but what it actually ends up doing is just giving people whiplash and causing injury and entanglement when they are in minor accidents, which are significantly more common than a severe car crash. One article read that “Since 2000, over 200 rear seat occupants have become entangled in the seatbelt when they inadvertently switched it from emergency locking mode (ELR) to automatic locking mode (ALR).
Since a method is needed to lock the seatbelt when installing child restraint systems (CRS), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) commissioned tool, inc. to develop prototype devices that could reduce the risk of seatbelt entanglement resulting from the lockability requirement.”(sae.org) This statistic just makes it seem like all of this isn’t even worth it. If these seatbelts are only going to cause a mass number of people to get injuries that they otherwise wouldn’t, they are not worth having in cars, and are actually making the roads a lot more dangerous.
While many people think that they are great drivers, the truth is that most are not. This false sense of superiority on the road is already a problem as it is, causing people to take unnecessary risks and try to do things that they can not pull off. Now imagine how much worse that is made because somebody is wearing their seatbelt and doesn’t even care enough to look at the road because they incorrectly believe that wearing a seatbelt makes them invulnerable and a better driver than Dale Earnhardt Jr. All of that extra risk is not worth what seatbelts provide for society, and anybody who thinks it is has to straighten out their priorities.
Also, not only do people feel safer and therefore are less safe when driving with a seatbelt on, but they also cause people to drive faster, which results in more deadly accidents. I do not believe that seatbelts giving bad drivers unwarranted confidence and the idea that they can afford to go faster than they actually can is making the road a safer place in any capacity. Another opinion that is important in this topic is that of those who are victims of wreckless drivers who became less able to operate their car properly because they wore their seatbelt.
A new phenomenon is something that is known as “seatbelt syndrome”. Essentially, after getting into an accident while wearing a seatbelt, certain victims report having lingering injuries such as intra-abdominal injuries and vertebral fractures. This has been known to cause chronic pain in its victims for the rest of their lives. Many sufferers of seatbelt syndrome never recover, and their quality of life diminishes heavily.
Seatbelts cause drivers to lower their inhibitions and become more susceptible to damage sustained during a wreck or collision. Many people refuse to accept this truth because they can not wrap their minds around the fact that something that is supposed to be protecting us is actually harming us, and it is being promoted by the government. If people opened their eyes up to this sort of thing more often, they would see that it is not all the uncommon. The government promotes things that are against the best interest of the people all the time, take, for instance, the fact that tobacco and nicotine is a billion dollar industry that kills people, but makes money, so its not a big deal to the government.
To conclude, the definitive reason that people should not wear a seatbelt while driving is that it does the one thing that we do not want to happen while we drive. It makes the road more dangerous. If people realized that a lot more often than they realize, this world is not as soft and protective as they have been led to believe. It is the lack of people that are willing to challenge common belief that allows the narrative of helpful seatbelts to prevail.
My claim is understandably a very hard pill to swallow. The average person would be totally against the notion that seatbelts can do any harm at all. I am asking people to look outside the box and seek the truth that the average person would not. People have been indoctrinated to believe that these things can do no harm. “How many people do seatbelts save a year?” One might ask. While, yes, I must admit, the number of lives saved every year by seatbelts does not help my case by any means, but to assume that this number dismantles my argument would be to misunderstand my claim. I do not deny that seatbelts save many lives per year. I’m sure that they do. My claim asserts that if people don’t wear seatbelts, they are significantly less likely to be in an accident at all. Obviously, if somebody gets in an accident, they would be better off wearing a seatbelt than being without one, but perhaps if they hadn’t worn a seatbelt at all, there would be no accident to worry about.
While the numbers and statistics against my claim are certainly a worthy opponent, I believe that if somebody were to look at my argument through a different lens, the statistics seem to become a moot point. In other words, it doesn’t matter to me how many lives seatbelts save; what matters is how many people would have been unscathed and uninterrupted from driving on the road had they not worn their seatbelts. I believe that a lot of these numbers are actually facetious, anyway. One source brought up something very interesting to. They claim that people that have been involved in accidents have been lying about wearing their seatbelts in order to avoid getting in trouble, thus creating inaccurate statistics involving seatbelts. “Some authors have expressed concern that estimates of seat belt effects may be biased.1–4 In particular, some car occupants who survived a crash may falsely claim to police that they were belted in order to avoid a fine. If police sometimes believe these false claims, this would lead to exaggerated estimates of seat belt benefits if data from police crash reports were used.” This definitely raises an interesting point. How realistic even are these numbers? These inaccurate statistics are ultimately giving people even more of a false sense of security than they already possess, making driving even more difficult.
In many cases, wearing a seatbelt while driving is simply not worth the risk of getting into an accident. Especially in the cases of children or young people who may not have any help from seatbelts in the case of an accident, there is no point in wearing a seatbelt. One source really hit home with an excerpt about how seatbelts can very quickly become significantly more dangerous than they are safe if they are not used or manufactured correctly. “Defective seat belts can case catastrophic, often fatal, injuries. These life-changing injuries can change an occupant’s life forever. The most common injuries from seat belt failure are injuries to the heat and neck, chest injuries, and injuries to the arms or legs; these injuries can lead to permanent disabilities. If a seat belt fails in a head on collision, an occupant can be thrown into the windshield. If a belt fails during a rollover, an occupant can be ejected from the vehicle and sustain spinal cord or neck injuries which can result in quadriplegia, paraplegia, paralysis or death.” I think that everybody who chooses to wear a seatbelt while they drive should read this before they buckled up, because I think it can really open up a lot of eyes.
The sooner that people begin to challenge the widely accepted notion that seatbelts are protective and safe at all times, the safer the roads will become. The truth is, wearing a seatbelt is oftentimes the catalyst for many horrific accidents that otherwise would not have occurred. This is a society that is full of people who want to feel safe. The ironic thing is that it is this infatuation with safety that is ultimately leading to them being placed further into harms way. It is easily one of the most counterintuitive things that I can imagine. If people want to feel safe, what they should do is read and educate themselves and form their own opinions that may differ from everybody else. Ultimately, people are afraid to challenge concepts when the alternative seems so absurd and incomprehensible to them, even if the initial concept does not make a whole lot of sense. Why would somebody want to lower their god-given inhibition while driving on the road, which is something that requires full concentration and coordination.
We know that we can’t put it past the government to exaggerate some statistics in order to push an agenda. To blindly follow and not question those numbers that seemingly so easily dismantle my thesis is to neglect the most important thing that one must do in order to understand my claim. We must be able to think outside the box and understand how something can seem so obvious and yet be so untrue. That includes being able to look past misleading statistics.
What should people value more? Becoming less likely to end up in a collision at all by not wearing a seatbelt, or preparing for this hypothetical collision, thus making it more likely to occur, in order to mitigate to the hypothetical damage from said hypothetical collision. Any logical or sound person would prioritize preventing the accident from occurring at all. I believe that a fascination with numbers and safety has skewed the average persons mindset when it comes to personal freedoms. If somebody feels safer without a seatbelt, I don’t think this concept should be seen as so preposterous. I think that challenging the status quo is something that is important to flourish in the coming years, and the more people that are willing to challenge what everybody believes, the more likely that change will come.
Syarah Adibah, J., Mohd Najib, Y. (2022). Contributing Factors Towards Human Errors on Road Transport Safety Among Commercial Vehicle Drivers. In: , et al. Human-Centered Technology for a Better Tomorrow. Lecture Notes in Mechanical Engineering. Springer, Singapore.
Najari F, Alimohammadi AM. An Immediate Death by Seat Belt Compression; a Forensic Medicine Report. Emerg (Tehran). 2015 Fall;3(4):165-7. PMID: 26495409; PMCID: PMC4608342.
Klinich, K., Ebert, S., Malik, L., Manary, M. et al., “Seatbelt Entanglement: Field Analysis, Countermeasure Development, and Subject Evaluation of Devices Intended to Reduce Risk,” SAE Technical Paper 2019-01-0619, 2019, .
Shiobara, D. “Do Seatbelts Really Save Lives?” Medium.com May 15 2020
Robertson LS. Estimates of motor vehicle seat belt effectiveness and use: implications for occupant crash protection. Am J Public Health1976;66:859–64. et al.