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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lessons from the Seat Belt Saga
Wayne makes some good points in this article, but I do not agree with all of them. 
I've always felt that proper education and common sense information will most always work better than just passing laws, though I can certainly see why texting and driving should be illegal. I recall an Iowa ad with the slogan "Seat Belt TICKETS Save Lives"! Come on, that sounds like a crock to me. A link is provided to Wayne's site below:
By Wayne Smolda, January 31st, 2012 @ 7:59 pm
As I wrote earlier this month, I‘m devoting a series of blogs to the critical challenge of breaking America’s addiction to using a cell phone while driving. We've actually had similar struggles with highway danger over the generations. One was our journey toward greater seat belt use. This was quite a social phenomenon and one that captured our attention for three decades or more.
 I remember when cars didn't have seat belts. Then, when they first started to appear in the 1970s, we drivers simply ignored them as a clumsy inconvenience.  As late as 1984, only 14 percent of all U.S. drivers were using them. The result, of course, was that people were needlessly being killed or seriously injured in traffic accidents. The tragedy prompted safety proponents to raise a cry for increased seat belt use.
 This morphed into aggressive campaigns by many civic and commercial organizations to “buckle up”, with ads and publicity that cited frightening statistics about the safety and welfare of drivers on the roads. A period of ten years followed when trend lines for seat belt-use were publicized every three months, including charts showing rising seat-belt use in the nation, with a national goal of 70 percent usage.
 From 1984 through 1994, one by one the states enacted laws that made it a crime for vehicle occupants not to use seat belts.  They gave police the power to issue tickets, creating a financial penalty for our lack of concern – a small price to pay if you were lucky enough to walk away from a crash unscathed. Seat belt usage inched forward to 37 percent in 1986, reached 49 percent by 1990, and climbed to 67 percent by 1994.  Then came a series of coordinated national “Click It or Ticket” campaigns every summer. And what I remember is that as safety consciousness increased, we adults were taunted by our children when we didn't buckle up.  The scare campaigns had reached them, and they grew up with the belief that using your seat belt wasn't optional.  So it was that our children came to our rescue, as we adults re-invented our driving habits.
All this testifies to the idea that changing ingrained driving habits takes a journey of implementation.  Embracing  the benefits of seat belt use began from a point of pure ignorance and less-than-optimal belt design took a journey of  some three decades, as society grew to accept the the idea that not using your seat belt is virtually unthinkable.  We’re still not where we ought to be, but usage in the U.S. is now at 85 percent, and in Canada it’s over 90 percent.  As a result, since the mid-1970s, tens of thousands of lives have been saved and hundreds of thousands of serious injuries have been avoided.
 But when it comes to the addiction of cell phones, we can’t afford a journey that lasts three decades.  Worse, our children aren't going to be the ones to help us – they’re even more addicted to hand-held electronic devices than we are.  So, it’s up to us, those who already drive, to take the lead.  We’re the ones who have to insist that cell phones are turned off by everyone in the vehicle when the wheels start rolling.  We owe to ourselves and everyone at risk today to do the right thing, and that is “turn it off” when the engine’s running.  So let’s start now teaching the right behavior and getting everybody – kids, especially —  and kids to break the cell phone habit .


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