Buckling up

A few weeks ago, I pulled the car over and turned off the engine. I had been making a couple of errands and was driving home when I rounded a corner and narrowly missed hitting a large deer that had darted across the road. I let out a sigh and tried to catch my breath. The deer had huge antlers — and in my haste, I couldn’t tell how many points it had on its rack but could easily imagine how much damage it would have caused to my car if we had collided.

I was lucky. I said a quick prayer thanking God that I was able to avoid the accident. I thanked him too that I had been wearing my seat belt. If I had hit the deer, I may have still been injured, but I liked my chances better with the seat belt.

When I was ready to start up again, I adjusted my seat belt and pulled out.

Image by Josh Hild via Pexels.

Changing times

Seat belts have come a long way. When I was a kid, no one wore seat belts. My parents didn’t, my neighbors didn’t, no one did. The coach who I used to catch a ride with to my little league baseball or pee wee football games didn’t wear one either and certainly didn’t require us kids to wear one.

Heck, as a very young child, I remember going with my mom to pick up my dad, after his 11 p.m. shift at the steel plant where he worked, and I would lie on the back seat. If I was really tired, I would climb up to the back window and look up at the stars. God forbid, if my mom had to make a quick stop, I would have went flying. 

As late as 1983, fewer than 15% of Americans told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that they consistently used seat belts. They just weren’t a part of our daily habits. 

Change happens one person at a time

Seat belt laws in the United States are left to the states and territories. Most states started mandating front-seat passengers wear seat belts in the mid 80s. New York started the trend and many other states soon followed.

Many folks opposed the mandatory belt laws. However, as my generation started to drive, we were the first to start wearing them. I remember encouraging my mom and dad to start wearing theirs when they got in the car.

I don’t go anywhere now without my seat belt. I unclicked mine momentarily last week so that I could lean out my window to grab a coffee from a fast food window and it felt strange. I must not be the only one. Seat belt use varies across the 50 States, but AAA estimates that 90% of drivers wear seat belts nationwide.

Image via Pexels.

The consequences are real

Seat belts usage has increased because most people see the difference. Of the 23,824 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2020, 51% were not wearing seat belts. What’s more, seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives and could have saved an additional 2,549 people if they had been wearing seat belts, in 2017 alone.

So, yea, I wear mine now without a second thought. Change really does start with one person at a time.

16 thoughts on “Buckling up

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  1. Yes – thanks for the memory lane moment…I also recall the days when sleeping in the back seat — or within the rear window — was kinda no big deal. Shocking, really, how unsafe we all were…but we made it! And watch out for the deer — we’ve got a few around here…good to be extra mindful while driving. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea, it can be hard for some people. I think I wear mine now because they started us young. We got docked points by our driver’s ed teacher if we didn’t wear them. And you’re so right about deer. They’re everywhere here. I hate it especially when it’s dusk and you can’t see far. Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Whew – thank goodness you narrowly missed that accident. I love your perspective about change being one person at a time. I too remember not wearing a seatbelt as a kid and now if I even back into the driveway before buckling mine (sometimes I buckle on the go), my kids remind me.

    We can change things!! Thanks for the reminder, Brian!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We survived by luck and statistical odds, and those who did not are no longer here to tell about it. I read somewhere that you can greatly increase your odds of living simply by wearing a seatbelt and not smoking.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. That was a narrow escape, Brian. Much the same as you, as we’re probably of the same generation; I grew up when seatbelts weren’t mandatory. I remember lying on the back seat, but I wasn’t allowed in the rear window. When we went out as children, my Mum and dad would only wear seatbelts once they were made law, but it wasn’t till a decade or more after that that rear seatbelts became necessary. Up till then, there were four of us children all messing around in the back. Plus, sometimes, a friend or two, all squashed up and unrestrained. In the UK, we had a slogan that [I think] came from the police saying ‘Clunk Click Every Trip.’

    I’m so glad you didn’t hit that large deer, both for your safety and that of the deer. It must have been a frightening experience, though. My daughter hit a Muntjac deer a few weeks ago. Somehow, the deer got off with no injuries, just shock, and a vet came to check it over. My daughter and the girls were very upset and shaken up.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Ellie! It’s that time of year here, it’s darker earlier in the evening and I live in the suburbs, so there’s more whitetail deer. Probably would help too if I slowed down more. I’ve seen lots of slogans here too: “click it or ticket,” “seat belts save lives, buckle up every time,” and “it will hurt if you don’t wear a seatbelt.” Times have definitely changed for the better … at least when it comes to seatbelts! 😎😎😎

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It really is a wonder how we managed to survive our youth. Early on in the mandatory seat belt wearing years, I hated that they’d wrinkle my clothes! I’m a lot older and wiser now—better a crunched blouse that a crunched chest.

    Liked by 2 people

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