Here’s another one you’ve heard from us before, but it appears our admonitions (and state law) aren’t been heeded.
For 28 years — this is nothing new, more than a generation has passed since it was enacted — front-seat passengers in vehicles on Alabama streets and highways have been required to wear seat belts.
That requirement will become broader on Sept. 1, when a bill passed by the Legislature this year requiring back-seat passengers to buckle up as well takes effect. (Gov. Kay Ivey signed it last week.)
We’d like to believe people are displaying good sense and following the law. Some recent numbers published by the Tuscaloosa News give us an uneasy feeling.
The University of Alabama’s Center for Advanced Public Safety analyzed the data from 2018 vehicle crashes in the state. It found that nearly half of the people who died in those crashes — 366 of 743 — weren’t wearing seat belts.
Check out these other numbers from the survey:
• The probability of dying in a vehicle accident is roughly 50 times higher when you aren’t buckled up. The odds of a fatality in a given accident are 1 in 1,000 for seat belt wearers, compared to 1 in 24 for those who don’t buckle up.
• A researcher at the Center for Advanced Public Safety said it’s “almost impossible” to be ejected from a vehicle if you’re wearing a seat belt. The odds of dying are 1 in 5 if you are ejected, and even if you survive the chances are strong that you’re going to get maimed.
• Drivers who drink (another no-no) or drive fast and aggressively (ditto) are significantly more likely to drive unrestrained.
• Also, more drivers on rural roads — where the risk of serious crashes is higher because of adjacent wooded areas — fail to buckle up.
This level of non-compliance is unacceptable — and we’re fully aware of our lecturing tone, and have no illusions that law enforcement is going to compel full compliance anytime soon. (The penalty for not buckling up is just $25 and while we’d be on board, we doubt there’s much of an appetite for strengthening it.)
We know the libertarian “it’s my body, my life and my business” types will never be convinced either. (It would be a simpler world, but not a realistic one, if individuals actually did exist in vacuums where their actions legitimately impacted no one else.)
It’s worth another try, though, because we sort of like to keep people (and customers) alive and in one piece.
The advantages of wearing seat belts are indisputable. The negatives are non-existent.
Seat belts save lives, period.
Please buckle up.
A version of this editorial first appeared in The Gadsden Times.