We noticed some common themes when examining responses to our online request to hear from people who don’t wear seat belts. We also drew on our anecdotal findings over the years. Many of the reasons people give for not buckling up are false—and hazardous.


Read our special report, "Fastening Seat Belts: The 3 Seconds That Save Lives," and find out what it will take to get to 100 percent seat belt use.
 

LieTruth

If I do get into a crash, I'd have a better chance of survival because I'd be thrown clear of the car.

You're far more likely to be killed or seriously injured if you're ejected from your vehicle. In 2014, about 80 percent of occupants ejected from vehicles were killed. By design, seat belts are meant to keep you contained in your vehicle during a crash. According to the Michigan state police website: "The idea of being thrown from a car and gently landing in a grassy area beside the road is pure fantasy. There is a far greater chance of being thrown through the windshield, scraped along the pavement, or even crushed by your own vehicle or another one."

I don't need to be belted just to drive a few blocks away. When I'm on the highway I will buckle up, because most crashes occur at high speeds.

Most car crashes occur at less than 40 mph. And most fatal crashes occur within 25 miles of home. So you should wear a seat belt during even the shortest trips. Even if you're on local streets and not speeding, others around you may be. If your vehicle hits a solid object at 30 mph, unrestrained people and objects inside will continue to move forward at that speed until they hit a solid part of the car.

My car has airbags, so wearing a seat belt won't add protection.

Airbags are meant to work with seat belts, not to replace them. They deploy in a fraction of a second and can hit your face and body at speeds up to 200 mph. In a crash, if you're not wearing a seat belt, you could be thrown into an airbag as it inflates, which could cause severe injury or death.

If my car goes off the road into a river, I don't want to be trapped by my seat belt.

That happens in less than one half of 1 percent of all crashes. The possibility of being trapped by a seat belt that doesn't release is far less than being injured if you're unbelted and flung around the car.

I'm strong enough to brace myself against the steering wheel or dashboard in a collision.

No, you are not. The sudden deceleration of a car in a crash at just 30 mph will transform the mass of an unbelted 160-pound person into 12 tons. And you can't predict the onset of a sudden crash, which can happen in less than a second.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the August 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.