Why people don’t buckle up, and why they should

Consumer Reports News: May 14, 2007 02:23 PM

Various studies have identified the reasons some people are reluctant to buckle up. Among them are the erroneous perceptions that seat belts don’t actually work well, that accidents happen only to other people, that belts aren’t needed on short trips, or that you don’t need one if you’re in, say, a big, heavy pickup.

Other arguments that non-belt-wearers cite:

  • Belts are uncomfortable
  • Belts can trap you in a crash
  • You’re better off being “thrown clear”
  • Belt use is a matter of personal freedom
  • The police “are spread too thin around here to catch me”

As we learned at an annual traffic-safety conference called Lifesavers, safety researchers have developed some effective counter-arguments that may soon appear in messages aimed at belt-resistors:

  • Most people who die in traffic accidents are unbelted.
  • Seventy-five percent of the people “thrown clear” (ejected during a crash) are killed.
  • Most collisions happen on short trips.
  • People in pickups have a higher crash-death rate than those in any other type of vehicle.
  • If you think belts are uncomfortable, consider a wheelchair.

Perhaps the trickiest argument is the personal-freedom assertion: “I decide what’s right for me.” The savvy safety psychologists have a good series of arguments to persuade people otherwise:

  • You have no control over other drivers, who could crash into you at any time.
  • Other unrestrained passengers can injure you by flying into you during a crash.
  • You take more positive control over your life when you buckle up than when you do not.

--Gordon Hard

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