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Seat Belt Safety: Do the Numbers add up?

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Seatbelts remain one of the most controversial elements in driving safety, since people can’t seem to agree on whether or not they are really making them safer in a vehicle. The idea behind the seatbelt is very simple and we all know that law dictates we wear one while operating a vehicle or whether we are a passenger. The strap restrains you in case of a sudden stop or an accident and by doing so it is thought to significantly increase your chances of surviving or of not sustaining any injuries during such an event. Fatalities are caused when people are sent through the windshields of vehicles who have collided with another vehicle or some other object and when this happens the injuries can be very great due to broken glass and the impact on landing sometimes on pavement or another dangerous object.

Because of this, seatbelt laws are in place and without wearing one in the majority of U.S. States you will be ticketed and fined an amount according to the local law enforcement agency. The American government, as well as a great many public organizations are dedicated to the enforcement of seatbelt laws to bring down the numbers of fatal accidents happening each day on American roads. But is there actually a link between strict seatbelt laws and lower fatalities on the road? A 2002 report reveals that of the ten States with the lowest road fatalities, five enforced the strictest seatbelt laws and five did not; in fact in New Hampshire, the only State without any seatbelt laws at all, the streets were rated third safest in all the country.

Clearly the link between strict seatbelt laws and road safety is not as straightforward as it might be; politicians continue to lobby for stricter rulings as do concerned citizens but the fact remains that a safe road is a safe road regardless of legislation. We must begin to consider whether or not people in New Hampshire wear their seatbelts as often as they do in any other State with strict laws regardless of the fact that they legally need not. Numbers are likely the same as in most other States, leading to the logical conclusion that like with most laws, they will be obeyed by those who would have done so in the first place and disregarded by those who would have done otherwise.

Not unlike removing speeding laws from highways, removing seatbelt laws has no particular effect on the safety of drivers on the roads. Although the laws were set in place with good intentions, perhaps it is best to admit that people will do as they please and their own safety should be left in their own hands. Of course there is no doubt that seatbelts are capable of saving lives and that they often do, law enforcement is too often ineffective in making people act a certain way when they are naturally inclined not to.

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