After reading two letters in your September issue about seat belts I felt encouraged to write in support about this sensitive subject. The value of seat belts cannot be denied but I certainly think that the publicity given to these devices has taken the subject completely out of proportion. Such statements as If I had worn my seat belt this would not have happened to me” are totally misleading. Once could certainly say that it might not have happened but the only way of avoiding injury completely is to avoid the accident. Let us wonder how far the belt will go:
1. It can only assist when both fitted and worn properly.
2. It can only assist occupants of the vehicle.
3. It can only be applied to certain vehicles to be of value (ie motorcycles cannot be adapted.)
This difference between avoiding the accident and avoiding the injury is highlighted by looking at commercial vehicles and cars. Commercial vehicle safety has concentrated on raising design and performance standards and controlling the operation of such vehicles in the form of operator and drivers’ licences. The whole accent is on avoiding the accident which I suggest is a far more worthwhile pursuit. The emotional element in the passenger car world has gone the other way by accepting the accident situation and trying to avoid injury. Introduction of collapsible steering columns, seat belts, collapsible frames and so on, none of which help the poor old pedestrian. They completely ignore spurious swing-axle suspensions, low geared wheel twiddling systems, and a terribly low driving standard and virtually no owner appreciation of the vehicle.
On the question of compulsion for the wearing of seat belts I do feel we sometimes lose sight of the reality of life. Frankly, statistics can be made to prove anything as we all know, and I am certainly sceptical about those produced for the seat belt case. If we are to accept 70% of all injuries are saved by wearing belts, and then argue that making the wearing of them a legal requirement is a must, I have a further even more powerful suggestion. Accepting the accident saves 100% of all injury, so let’s make accident avoidance a legal requirement as the end result is much better.
The latter suggestion must be a ridiculous piece of logic, just as the former one is, so please, let us get everything in perspective and avoid emotion.
W I Mahany, Harpenden