Seat belts


Nowadays, in the United States, almost everyone enjoys a good seat belt.

This wasn’t always the case. Back in 1983, it’s estimated that only 14% of the US population was buckling up. (I was eight back then. Indeed, my brother and I were probably lolling around in the backseat, using the buttons on our lap belt buckles only to launch imaginary missiles at nearby cars.)

Change didn’t happen overnight. The population of the US didn’t wake up one morning and decide, “Hey, maybe I should just wear that damn thing all the time.” But change did happen over time, as it started to become excessively clear just how very many advantages (e.g., staying alive, keeping your face in the event of an accident) come from the simple act of buckling up.

Here’s what that curve looked like (thanks for all the info, Wikipedia):

Seat belt use in the United States.png

Sure, there were a few years we backtracked. But ultimately, we got there. Today, about 90% of us regularly wear seat belts.

In other words, not everybody saw the light right away. It took time. There were arguments. People made fun of each other. Not everyone readily agreed to change their ways.

But we all (well, 90% of us) got there eventually. And now, most of us get to not-die and keep our faces in the event of a car accident. And isn’t that nice?

The stats are nothing to shake a stick at. Seat belts have saved an estimated 255,000+ lives since 1975. It’s also estimated that, among front-seat drivers and passengers, seat belts reduce the risk of death and serious injury by about 50%. And people not wearing seat belts are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash. (Put that one alongside the fun fact that more than 3 out of 4 people who are ejected during a fatal crash die from their injuries.)

Anyway, in case you’re feeling a little obtuse today, the nice thing I REALLY want to highlight today is that, when something’s genuinely the right idea for the safety, health, and well-being of an entire population of people, we eventually figure it out. So whatever your issue is — whatever it is you wish you could get other people to see the light on — don’t give up. It may take a few decades, but we’ll keep making progress. And someday, we’ll get there.