Although belting-up is compulsory in most cars, the arguments for this unpopular law to be revoked are legion, the Transport Act, 1981, Part 2 providing for a three-year trial period, after which both Houses of Parliament must review the advisability of permanent compulsion.
This has caused The Times to devote considerable space to the views of Lionel Hill, a Worthing consulting engineer, who is against compulsory belting up and who questions the figures which the Government used to get the Bill through Parliament. He says that unless accident statistics are weighed against the number of passenger-journeys involved they are meaningless. Correctly interpreted, says Mr. Hill, the odds on being killed are one in 10,000,000 and of being seriously injured one in 770,000, which he suggests was no cause for panic compulsion. He thinks the prime motive was that of increasing the profit of multi-million-pound seat-belt companies. The Times does not agree that politicians would indulge in the worst of all motives. The fact remains that Kangol has issued a Press hand-out stating that Britain’s motorists are poised to deluge local garages with seat-belt requirements. One imagines that further expense (and profits for some) will be incurred when seat-belts are found to require renewal at MoT tests. To their credit, VAG were offering free seat-belt advice to car owners just before compulsion through their 380 British Audi / VW dealers, and on a happier note Kangol announce a £1,000,000 order for seat-belts from Toyota in Japan for all-round fastening of the occupants to the latest Corollas.
Sad cases are recorded of seriously disabled drivers being refused exemption by their doctors from wearing seat-belts. In one such case, reported in The Times, a Birkenhead driver with two artificial knees, an artificial arm and arthritis in both shoulders and in his spine, was so treated. His incensed MP took the matter up with Mrs. Lynda Chalker of the Department of Transport. The only advice she gave was about an American type passive restraint, which would cost 500-dollars to fit to his Datsun, if another doctor did not prove to be more compassionate. Even so, if this disabled driver were to be involved in an accident resulting in a fire, his artificial arm might not release a seat-belt in time to save him. “I shall be virtually a prisoner at home after January 30th”, this unfortunate man said. It is thought that doctors are refusing to consider applications for exemption because of the wording of the Medical Commission on Accident Prevention, although the BMA say this surprises them. . . .
Then there is the story of two people dying after an accident caused because they were trying to fasten one another’s seat belts. Clearly, they were unaccustomed to wearing them, so here are two deaths to be chalked up against compulsion. It occurs to us that the Police Force must offer fresh possibilities to new recruits for commendation leading to rapid promotion, because even now it is all too easy to forget to put on a seat belt, especially when restarting on short-distance trips, and therefore there should be a good haul of the New Criminals class for young policemen to apprehend.
Meanwhile, another knife, the Martor Ruckzuck, for cutting oneself free of a compulsory belt which refuses to release, has been marketed by H. W. Peel & Co. Ltd., Greenford, Middx., at £2.55 plus VAT. This is apart from the Justin Case safety-belt releasing-knife we referred to some time ago. It goes to show the concern felt in some quarters. — W. B.