There’s an in-car technology that just might save your life…
GEM Road Safety Officer, Neil Worth, tells us more…
There has been a lot of talk in the press and in Parliament about how our roads will be made safer through the introduction of autonomous vehicles. Indeed the Government recently announced that it has commissioned a review of the law to allow for self-driving vehicles on the roads of Great Britain. While we watch this with interest, it wasn’t this that led me to be standing at the side of the road on a very chilly Wednesday morning in March. No, it was a vehicle technology that was a lot older, simpler and incredibly effective at saving life – seatbelts.
I had been invited to take part in an operation being run by colleagues from Sussex Safer Roads Partnership aimed at enforcing the law around seatbelt use. A site had been selected, and with a small team of officers and a plain-clothed “spotter” further up the road, I began my stint looking out for those not wearing their belts.
So why is it important? Not wearing a seatbelt is considered to be one of the high risk behaviours road safety practitioners aim to address and is often considered one of the “Fatal Four” (the other three being drink/drug driving, speed and distraction i.e. mobile phone use). When you consider that if you are involved in a crash at 30 mph your body will be thrown forward at a force of between 30 and 60 times your bodyweight (which in my case is between 2.5 and 4.5 tonnes) and you are twice as likely to die if you are not wearing a seatbelt, you can start to see why it attracts attention.
Aren’t modern vehicles fitted with airbags and other technology, such as airbags, to keep occupants safe? Well yes, they are, but airbags are designed to work together with the seatbelt. Indeed an airbag deploys at roughly 200 mile per hour and is there to cushion the impact, not to take it in its entirety.
If it’s that important why don’t people wear seatbelts? Well the majority do. According to the Department of Transport 95% of car drivers habitually wear their belts, but that minority of 5% who don’t represents nearly 2 million people who put themselves at risk of serious injury or worse. Some will say that they find seatbelts uncomfortable to wear, others that they forget to put it on or the old classic “I was just nipping round the corner” but really there is no excuse.
It has been law in the UK to for those in the front of vehicles to wear a seatbelt since 1983 and in the rear since 1991. Not wearing seatbelt attracts a fine of £500 upon conviction. There are very few exemptions to wearing a seatbelts and these are confined to members of the Emergency Services, licensed taxi drivers (NOT private hire drivers) and those who drive goods vehicles engaged in multiple drops at a distance of no more than 50 metres (164 feet) between each stop.
By the time I was so cold that I couldn’t feel my feet and the sergeant decided to wrap things up, a total of 544 vehicles had passed by our spotter. The team were pleased with the morning’s results – some highly visible enforcement action taking place in the heart of a seaside town – and encouragingly only six people stopped for not wearing their seatbelts. This gives a very unscientific compliance rate of just over 99%!
In 2016 1,792 people died on British roads which roughly equates to 5 people every single day. That’s five knocks on the door to tell someone a loved one isn’t coming home… If your one of the 5%, who don’t wear a seatbelt, think about that the next time you get in the car and pop your belt on. After all these things are designed to keep you safe so why wouldn’t you wear one?