Friday 9 December 2016

Belt up - and stop putting yourself and others at risk

* Young people are the worst offenders, our Road Safety Authority experts reveal this week

Published 28/10/2015 | 02:30

Make sure you belt up to ensure safety.
Make sure you belt up to ensure safety.

It is really hard to understand why people still don't wear seatbelts.

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Our own observational studies show the vast majority of people do belt up. Nine out of 10 in fact.

But I've been noticing more drivers around town than usual, mostly men, not wearing a seatbelt.

The ladies don't get away scot free either. Some insist on wearing their belts the wrong way. With the shoulder strap under their arm.

If they only knew the horrific injuries they would suffer in a crash from misusing the seatbelt.

The reasons, I'm reliably told, for wearing it under the arm are cosmetic.

Ladies don't want the shoulder strap of the seatbelt to ruin their fake tan or crease their tops.

Such is our concern over this that we are in the process of developing a campaign to convince women of their folly. So, more on this particular issue at a later date.

What would certainly make people think twice about not wearing a seatbelt is a spin in our Seatbelt Convincer. And I mean a spin. The best way to describe this is to imagine yourself sitting in a saloon car on a spit roast, and rotating 360 degrees.

It's a big crowd puller at all the shows and schools it visits. As the car slowly rotates, and you are upside down in it, you get the sudden realisation that the only thing holding you into your seat is the seatbelt.

We tell participants to imagine it's happening at 100kmh, at night, and through a hedge. It's an unnerving and sobering experience.

You should see the faces of the people when they get out of the car compared to when they got in. The bravado is gone.

But it seems my anecdotal, local observations are backed up by national statistics.

According to the gardai, non-seatbelt wearing is still a big problem. Almost 8,000 fixed charge notices have been issued so far in 2015. A more detailed look at who is getting tickets reveals that the 20-39 age group is failing to do something that should be done automatically when you get into a car, with more than half of all seatbelt fixed charge notices being issued to people aged 20-39.

Maybe they thought they were exempt from the laws of physics. Well they now have three penalty points on their licences.

That's a quarter of the way towards losing their licences: 12 points in a three-year period and it's a six-month disqualification. Think of the damage that will do to your employment prospects.

Of more serious concern is the number of fatal incidents where it has been found that the driver or passenger had not been wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision.

Initial Garda reports show that no seatbelt was worn in 1-in-3 of the driver and passenger road deaths so far in 2015, higher than in previous years. Nearly half of these (48pc) were aged 20-39.

This is a worrying development. Seatbelts are proven lifesavers. Without a seatbelt 3-in-4 people would be killed or seriously injured in a 50kmh head-on crash.

By not wearing a seatbelt you also risk becoming a killer yourself, because in a crash you will be thrown about inside the car, injuring or possibly killing others.

Without a seatbelt you are also more likely to be thrown from the vehicle altogether.

Don't take your life or those of the other passengers in the car for granted by not wearing a seatbelt.

A seatbelt won't prevent a crash but it could determine if you live or die in the event of one. Belt up and do your part to save lives.

* Tell us why you think people don't wear seatbelts: ecunningham@independent.ie

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