Friday, January 25, 2008

Yes, I actually was wearing my seatbelt!

Well intentioned members of law enforcement are often quick to point out that persons injured in car accidents were not wearing their seatbelts. Doing so, they probably believe, will increase seatbelt usage. And it might. The problem is sometimes they speak too soon and misinform the public. I am aware of multiple cases where the local CHP has blamed lack of seatbelt usage, at least in part, for the accidents' associated injuries. In certain of these cases, as in the recent one cited above, there were seatbelt shaped abrasions across the abdomens of the accident victims. I am increasingly concerned about this pattern of misinformation because it may distort the true safety record of vehicles involved in these accidents. Consider that if an injury to a vehicle occupant is blamed on lack of seatbelt usage, when they were actually wearing their seatbelt, the true causes of the injury may not actually be investigated. I suggest, therefore, that members of law enforcement be more circumspect before they write in their accident reports, or state to the media, that the injured occupants weren't wearing their seatbelts unless they really know that to be true. A careful investigation by a trained accident investigator should be able to answer this question. I think doing so will work in favor of auto-safety and will not risk hurting the feelings of persons whose bodies already hurt (i.e., by implying that their own carelessness caused their injuries in cases where that is not true).

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