Buckle Up?
May 8, 2006 8:57 AM   Subscribe

Do you wear your seatbelt?

Every year around this time, when the weather turns nice and everybody starts driving with their tops down or windows open, I notice many more people than I would have expected are not wearing their seatbelts. When I was a kid, I survived a really awful head-on crash almost certainly because I was wearing a seatbelt, and since then it's never crossed my mind to drive somewhere without one. I'm at a loss to think of any reason why someone wouldn't wear their seatbelt, but there must be one, right?

So I'm interested to know if you wear your seatbelt or not and the reasons for your decision one way or the other.
posted by dseaton to Travel & Transportation (160 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My wife and I always wear seatbelts for safety reasons.
posted by cahlers at 9:03 AM on May 8, 2006

The most common reason I've heard people give is that seatbelts are uncomfortable.
posted by Hildago at 9:08 AM on May 8, 2006

I always wear it.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:08 AM on May 8, 2006

I always wear mine. I had a bad accident many years ago when a drunk turned left in front of me causing a head-on collision between us. Although I hit the brakes (he never did) I was probably still going somewhere around 25 mph at impact. I walked away with nothing more than a stiff neck (OK, it still bothers me sometimes), and the drunk, who was unbelted, smashed out his windshield with his head and was taken away in an ambulance. I was pretty good about buckling up prior to that. Now I am religious about it. (I still have a serious issue with laws requiring seatbelt use but that is whole different topic.)
posted by caddis at 9:09 AM on May 8, 2006

Always, since before I could drive. I've done some risky stupid life-threatening things when I was younger, but wearing a seatbelt was always a no brainer.
posted by Good Brain at 9:09 AM on May 8, 2006

Yes, I always wear a seatbelt. In fact, I find that if I'm driving without it on, I don't feel like I'm properly in control of the vehicle. My reason for wearing it while growing up is simply because my parents made me do it. My reason now, at 35 years old, is the seemingly endless evidence that supports the safety issue. If the numbers were even 51% to 49% in respect to safe vs. unsafe, I would still wear it, but it seems that the percentage for safe is much higher.
posted by Shfishp at 9:10 AM on May 8, 2006

I always wear it and yes, I've heard the same reason as Hildago. I've never found seatbelts uncomfortable, but I think they may be less comfortable for shorter people?

Also my dad for instance used to find them slightly claustrophobic/restrictive (he also had stomach problems).
posted by ClarissaWAM at 9:11 AM on May 8, 2006

Always. Why not?
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:14 AM on May 8, 2006

I've never met anybody who doesn't wear their seatbelt. And many of my friends drive like maniacs, doing incredibly stupid things in their cars. But they all wear their seatbelts. And I never really see anybody that ISN'T wearing their seatbelt, either (at least, I never did at home in Toronto. I admit to not really paying much attention here in Dublin, I'm just trying to stay on the right side of the road). And yes, I've never found them uncomfortable either.
posted by antifuse at 9:15 AM on May 8, 2006

Growing up, the car didn't move until everyone had their seat belt on. So it's always seemed natural to me to get into the car and immediately put your seatbelt on.
posted by srah at 9:15 AM on May 8, 2006

Always, but I recently worked with a guy who didn't, and it shocked me. He was a pretty large guy, so I could imagine the belt would be less comfortable for him than for most people, but the reason he gave was that he grew up in a very rural area where not wearing a belt was the norm (as were underage and drunk driving, racing, etc). He also had a very fatalistic attitude in general.

FWIW, I refused to drive without him wearing the belt, but he "forgot" every single time we got into the car, and it was infuriating.
posted by crabintheocean at 9:19 AM on May 8, 2006

I always wear my seatbelt, sort of obsessively. When I was 4 we were in a terrible accident that were surely wouldn't have survived without the seat belts. Hospital for a long time, the whole nine yards.

I'll go one further and let you all know that nobody rides in my car without the seat belt on and I chose the Rodeo over the Ranger. I wanted to never have the discussion that, "No, this whole huge group of people would not fit in my vehicle, despite Florida law saying it's perfectly fine for adults to ride unrestrained in the back of a pickup truck."
posted by bilabial at 9:20 AM on May 8, 2006

Best answer: Always.

As a child I never wore one, and this habit continued when I learned to drive.

One day I was driving to work, and for reasons unknown, put on my seatbelt. A few minutes later I was involved in a serious accident and only survived because I was strapped in.

For weeks I had the most amazing bruise in the shape of the buckle (it was an old VW bug and had a seatbelt sort of like an airplaine belt, with the buckle in the middle of my chest) and looking at it was a constant reminder that I would be dead had I not put my seatbelt on first.

Although I never wore it before that day, after that I don't put the car in motion without being strapped in.
posted by Sheppagus at 9:21 AM on May 8, 2006

Oh, and by always, I mean even to move my car out of the driveway and into the street when I've parked someone in at the house.
posted by bilabial at 9:21 AM on May 8, 2006

I've never met anybody who doesn't wear their seatbelt.

I lived with a guy who never wore his. Reason was that he was in an accident a few years back where they said if he were wearing his seatbelt, he would have died so now he swears by not wearing it. Not saying it's good logic, but it's what he goes by.
posted by jmd82 at 9:24 AM on May 8, 2006

Always always always.

I've noticed that it's more often guys who take their time buckling up. I used to annoy the crap out of them, refusing to start the engine until they buckled, but now my '05 Corolla does this annoying beeping sound (that gets progressively louder and faster) if the driver OR passenger do not buckle up, thus transferring the annoyance from me to the car.

But it doesn't care if the backseat passengers don't buckle. Wonder why that is.
posted by like_neon at 9:25 AM on May 8, 2006

I always wear mine, but the most common reason I've heard from people who don't is that they don't want to be trapped in the car if there's an accident.

I hear the same thing about locked doors, though, too. It's always seemed odd to me not to lock the car doors.
posted by occhiblu at 9:26 AM on May 8, 2006

I always wear mine, and I don't let anybody ride in my car without wearing theirs. It's safer, and I'm not about to get a ticket for something that stupid.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:28 AM on May 8, 2006

I grew up with a hyper-safety conscious mother, so we always wore them.

It didn't become law until I was in high school. Some of my classmates and I made a PSA about seatbelt use, and the producer assigned me the role of "valley girl" (as if!), because it was the eighties, and that's apparently what constituted radio comedy in the eighties.

Anyway, my line was, "Omigod! Like, seatbelts are so restraining, y'know?"

posted by whatnot at 9:29 AM on May 8, 2006

I always wear it, in fact I feel like I'm "naked" without it. I think I have to thank my parents for getting me to do it every time I got into the car as a kid.

It simply doesn't seem right not to wear one, and I prefer if my passengers wear one.
posted by knapah at 9:30 AM on May 8, 2006

Best answer: How about when riding in a taxi? Who buckles up there? I may need to amend my answer above. My compliance in taxis is spotty at best, yet these vehicles frequently far exceed the speed limit in heavy traffic and the drivers take some pretty wild risks. I do, however, always wear the belt in German taxis. Riding in a taxi at speeds well in excess of 200 kph (230?) unbelted is just insane. Interesting thing I learned in Germany this year, some minivans can achieve speeds in excess of 200 kph, and of course it was already well known that Mercedes sedans can go much faster than that.
posted by caddis at 9:32 AM on May 8, 2006

my '05 Corolla does this annoying beeping sound (that gets progressively louder and faster) if the driver OR passenger do not buckle up

This may well be quite a stupid set of questions, but...

How does it know if there's a passenger there? Is there a pressure sensor under the seat that detects if someone's sitting there? And if so, what happens if you don't buckle in the bag of shopping on the passenger seat? Just over-curious.
posted by matthewr at 9:33 AM on May 8, 2006

I always wear it, as does everyone I know (even the more reckless people).

The closest guy I can think of to a non-wearer is my dad, who likes to "get moving" (read: back out of the driveway and go around the corner) before putting it on. That seems a bit odd to me -- because, you know, what if you get creamed by an 18-wheeler doing 75 down a residential street? Still, within a few seconds of being in the car, it's on.
posted by danb at 9:34 AM on May 8, 2006

matthewr: Yes, it has a pressure sensor. But it requires a fair bit of weight on the seat (it's expecting an adult human being, after all), so a shopping bag would be unlikely to trigger it.
posted by cerebus19 at 9:37 AM on May 8, 2006

I always wear my seatbelt, and when I'm behind the wheel I ask my passengers to wear theirs, too. I actually feel uncomfortable without it. I've never been in a serious accident, but I've known people who have, and things would have been a lot worse for them if they hadn't buckled up. Most of the (few) people I've known who don't usually wear seatbelts say they feel uncomfortable and restricted in them. (They wear them when I'm driving to humor me, though - they know I won't leave until everyone's strapped in.)

I've heard some people (but no one I know personally) argue that seatbelts could end up trapping someone in a burning or sinking vehicle, but this is just an urban legend.

On preview: caddis, I buckle up in taxis. Doesn't matter who's driving, I just don't feel safe without it. My parents indoctrinated me well.
posted by Aster at 9:37 AM on May 8, 2006


Grew up never wearing one. In fact, my father refused ever to use them. He had this thing about being trapped in the car underwater.

My friends and I drove like maniacs when we were younger, and after a few narrow escapes, I decided it would be a good idea. After many years and a few wrecks, I don't go anywhere without buckling. I insist on a car w/side curtain air bags & OnStar, as well.
posted by clarkstonian at 9:39 AM on May 8, 2006

caddis already raised my point. I live in a large city and take mostly taxis to get around (when not on public transportation). I rarely, if ever, buckle up when in a taxi, but I'm slightly neurotic about buckling up in any other car. I do buckle up when the taxi ride is going to be any significant length or on a highway. I really don't have any rationale or explanation for it, as I am generally safety-conscious in other aspects of my life.
posted by MeetMegan at 9:40 AM on May 8, 2006

Thanks, cerebus19 - YLSNED.
posted by matthewr at 9:40 AM on May 8, 2006

I always wear it now, but didn't always as a teen (before it was law), particularly if it was a very short trip.

I have an aunt who refuses to wear a seat belt because years and years ago she got into a horrible accident where the entire driver's side of her car was basically ripped away by a semi. She hadn't been wearing her seat belt and fell on the passenger's side floor which saved her, but still spent several weeks in the hospital. To this day she never buckles up. Faulty logic, I know.
posted by Devils Slide at 9:40 AM on May 8, 2006

Teenager, and I always wear my seatbelt; I've never been in an accident, but it just makes sense to me. It does bug me (shoulder straps aren't really made to fit around breasts). The worst I ever do is put the shoulder strap behind me and leave the lap belt on, and that's only when I'm going to be sleeping in the backseat.

I can blame my compliance on my parents, who taught me at a young age that the car wouldn't start unless all the passengers had seatbelts on. I now enforce the same rule on my friends whenever I'm driving. Lame, I know.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:40 AM on May 8, 2006

Best answer: I noticed once that I felt really uncomfortable riding my bike without my usual shoulder-strap messenger bag. I realized that it was because the bag strap feels like a seat belt, even though obviously it isn't attached to anything except me.
posted by nev at 9:48 AM on May 8, 2006

How does it know if there's a passenger there? Is there a pressure sensor under the seat that detects if someone's sitting there? And if so, what happens if you don't buckle in the bag of shopping on the passenger seat? Just over-curious.

My car has a weight sensor on the passenger side. If it is less than about 30 pounds, the car will assume it is not a person. The airbag will also be turned off on the passenger side unless the person sitting in the passenger seat is of a certain weight [I don't know what that weight is] but a light on the dash is on whenver the pass air bag if off.

Oh, and about the original question, I always wear a seatbeat. My mom was hit head-on by a drunk driver and walked away because she was wearing her seatbeat when I was like 14 and it left an impression on me. People must wear their seatbelts if they want to ride in my car.
posted by birdherder at 9:48 AM on May 8, 2006

Always. My mother beat it into my head when I was a kid.

More than 1/2 of the people I know and drive with don't though.

Some are very large people who have trouble getting in and our of the car.

Some say that they don't think it is the governments job to tell them what to do with their life.

Most just seem to forget and usually end up putting it on in a minute or two.

Everyone who rides in my car must wear though. In Calif. both the passenger and the driver get a ticket if the passenger isn't buckled in.
posted by thefinned1 at 9:48 AM on May 8, 2006

Always. And I always do up the many buckles and straps on my 3 year old's car seat even though it drives me nuts sometimes. OTOH, I never used to wear a bike helmet. Then I was hit by a truck while riding my bike and pregnant, and that shook me up. Then I found myself insisting that my daughter wear a helmet when she rides her bike, and I've changed my mind. Now I'll wear a bike helmet.

I also have the experience crabintheocean relates of knowing one person that doesn't wear his seatbelt consistently, and he also grew up in a rural area. Where he lived "booze cruising" (that's driving around drinking beer and getting smashed while driving) was considered normal, while this would have been absolutely inconceivable to my friends and I, even as teenagers. So that guy not wearing a seatbelt seems like a pretty minor infraction compared to other terrible dangerous habit he has. I won't ride with him without him wearing a seatbelt, though, and he understands that. I've told him that it's ME he'll kill if we're in an accident.
posted by raedyn at 9:49 AM on May 8, 2006

Never drive anywhere without my seatbelt on.

The folks that say seatbelts are uncomfortable should try being in traction for six months and see how comfortable that is. If they don't die in the accident, of course.

booksandlibretti, my aunt had a BMW that actually would not start unless the driver was buckled in. Saved her life too!
posted by fenriq at 9:50 AM on May 8, 2006

I'm with caddis. I rarely buckle up in a cab, even if I'm on an expressway going to the airport. I don't know why. I do recall being in a cab(unbelted) in Hamburg with open beer and the cabbie being concerned only that we might spill our drinks. True.
posted by Ohdemah at 9:52 AM on May 8, 2006

When I owned a car, or when in someone's private car, I always buckle up. But in cabs... never. I will sometimes buckle up when I take a car service to the airport. Weird.

I don't know anyone who buckles up when taking yellow cabs around the city.
posted by kimdog at 9:53 AM on May 8, 2006

I really hate wearing my seatbelt. I wear it (at least on the highway) anyway. I was required to wear my seatbelt as a kid, but it wasn't law yet (therefore a lot of adults didn't bother) and the backseats only had lap belts anyway.

But really, I don't understand how the interior of cars can be obsessively designed to the nth degree and the seatbelts be so damn frustrating. (For the record, it's the restraint of the shoulder part that makes me batty while driving in an urban area, which requires a little more moving around in one's seat to see around corners that cars have blocked, etc. More motion = seatbelt gets progressively tighter. I don't have an issue with being belted in, it's the design of the restraint that I find objectionable.)
posted by desuetude at 9:53 AM on May 8, 2006

Naturally. I can understand that some people find them uncomfortable but I find the prospect of being propelled through my windshield many times more uncomfortable.

And like many others here all my friends wear seatbelts as a matter of course, but I did in fact once know someone who never wore his seat belt. In fact, he was actually offended when people wore seatbelts in his passenger seat...he claimed it was a sign that his passenger did not trust him or his driving abilities. I told him I just didn't trust anybody else on the road. Still, I pissed him off a lot in the car.
posted by baphomet at 9:56 AM on May 8, 2006

Also - I buckle up in cabs. Occasionally I'll get into a cab where there aren't belt available. It bothers me a little (I get uncomfortable) but I still ride in the cab.
posted by raedyn at 9:57 AM on May 8, 2006

Yes, because seatbelts save lives /PSA
posted by heartquake at 10:00 AM on May 8, 2006

Best answer: I always have but lately I haven't, or I will not put it on until I've been on the road for a few minutes. It is totally irrational and stupid, but it feels open and freer to not have it on. I think it started when I bought a new bulky winter coat and it was a hassle to put it on. I go back and forth. Yes, this is stupid.
posted by craniac at 10:02 AM on May 8, 2006

I have a weird phobia about being held down. This contributes to my reluctance to wearing a seatbelt. However, I try to force myself in my own car.

In other people's cars, I usually don't try. I'm what people call "a big girl" (that's one of the nicer terms) and often a seatbelt won't fit without an extender. I usually don't try in cars that I'm not familiar with b/c I want to save myself the embarrassment of saying "Um... your seatbelt doesn't fit across my mega-wide hips."
posted by ferociouskitty at 10:05 AM on May 8, 2006

I wear my seatbelt all the time, as well. If I'm not wearing it, I don't feel comfortable, like I could slide around or something; feeling snugly held to the seat is one less distraction for me while driving.

I didn't always feel this way, though. I think the change has to do with having been a motorcycle rider. My full-face helmet was a security blanket for me - it made me comfortable, since I didn't have to deal with wind in my face and bugs.

Sometimes, while waiting for the bus to go to work, I pay attention to the cars going by (I live in Northern New Jersey, basically suburbs outside New York City) to see how many people are wearing their seatbelt, and I'm surprised at how many do not. As mentioned above, larger people wear them less. Also, people (men, usually) in large trucks - whether personal vehicles or delivery trucks - wear them less.
posted by dammitjim at 10:05 AM on May 8, 2006

I wear mine. I'm on the short side (just over five feet tall), and some vehicles with non-adjustable shoulder belts have me wearing them improperly (tucked under both arms so they're not across my neck, rather than my shoulder--in even a minor accident, a belt across the neck represents a safety hazard--or wearing only the lap belt with the shoulder belt behind my back). Occasionally, if I have to stop by the landlords' on the way home (less than half a block--I walk it if not on the way in or out of the neighborhood) I will leave the belt off on the way home from there when I get back in.

That said, I have known people whose lives were endangered or shortened by wearing their seatbelts, and some whose lives were most likely saved by not wearing them (as Devils Slide's aunt, they slid into a part of the car that was not totally destroyed). My grandmother was hit by a drunk driver as a passenger in my aunt's car, and her heart was bruised by her impact against the seat belt--she survived, but died of a myocardial infarction within a year of that accident, and we can't help but connect the two.
posted by Cricket at 10:06 AM on May 8, 2006

I always have. Mom drilled it into my head when I was little.

My dad didn't for a long time, until one evening when he was walking to his car after work and heard a car accident happen on the highway not too far away. He said that he could feel the accident happening to him, the impact and all that, so he started wearing his seatbelt that night and has ever since.

I know one person who does not wear a seatbelt, and I think his logic was "nobody's gonna tell ME what to do." Or some such nonsense.
posted by Lucinda at 10:08 AM on May 8, 2006

Always. I hit a tree when I was a teenager and would have definitely died, instead of just breaking a collarbone and having awful bruising.

I would never ride in a convertible without one, there was an accident by my house ~ 3 years ago where someone with a T-top flipped and none of the passengers were wearing their seatbelts. The only thing to hold onto (and keep their heads off of speeding pavement) was the T-top and they lost some digits and a lot of skin.
posted by blackkar at 10:09 AM on May 8, 2006

I wear mine because it's cool to follow the rules. Oh, and I'm not a moron.

Well, scratch that. In a cab I don't always, but I should. There was some report somewhere on how people fear most what they can't control (terrorists and such), and tend to ignore the little things they can (like wearing a seatbelt).
posted by jeffxl at 10:11 AM on May 8, 2006

I've been the sole car between two 3-car pileups. The guy behind me and myself left enough stopping space, the others didn't. I've been next to a drunk as they hit a deserted car on the highway and ricochet towards me with just a split second to avoid the collision. I've watched a Jeep hit a stopped van behind me at 60mph, twirl on one wheel, and only avoid tipping on it's side because of a guard rail. I've watched a Volvo driver get angry at a Semi and proceed to have an impromptu demolition derby right next to me... WITH A SEMI!

Always. I always wear my seatbelt. Boston traffic is a slaughterhouse. As cruel as that sounds, it is. I wish people knew this and drove appropriately. The 911 operators probably fear my calls to report these things.
posted by jwells at 10:14 AM on May 8, 2006

Whether or not someone wears them may have something to do with their age. I was born in 1960 and barely ever wore them until after July 27, 1987. That's the date of the day I used my face to shear off my rear view mirror and stuck my head through the windshield. I was very lucky and only required a lttle plastic surgery to close the 4 inch gash underneath my right eye where I met up with the mirror. Having the glass fragments scrubbed out of my "hamburgered" forehead further convinced me that seat belts are a good idea.
posted by Carbolic at 10:14 AM on May 8, 2006

Always. Because in the long run, life is a game of odds.
posted by LarryC at 10:14 AM on May 8, 2006

I know lots of people who don't use seatbelts, or are at least comfortable not using them (won't put them on unless reminded or the ride seems especially dangerous, for instance). It's one of many things (like smoking or supporting the prez) that (usually) doesn't have any logic behind it. We are not fundamentally rational beings and this becomes manifest in ways that seem odd to those who expect to find rationality in all things.
posted by drewbeck at 10:15 AM on May 8, 2006

Sometimes I don't wear mine, as a sort of political protest. I know it doesn't make much sense, but rebelliousness is rarely rational, I guess. I just think seatbelt laws are indefensible, and scoffing them makes me feel like Rosa Parks for a couple of minutes.
posted by iconjack at 10:21 AM on May 8, 2006

Best answer: Well, ok, I'll be the one to be honest and break the trend.

I hardly ever wear my seatbelt. Maybe 25% of the time. Not much more. Why? Hard to say. I have been in three accidents in the past 15 years (one serious, two minor) and the only time I was ever injured was the shattered collar bone caused by the seatbelt. Now (although the bone healed fully and neatly years ago) putting on a seatbelt when I'm driving just rubs against that spot and feels ... uncomfortable isn't the word for it. I'm just hyper, hyper aware of the belt rubbing against my shoulder and neck and I end up paying more attention to that feeling than I do to my driving.

I did specifically buy a car with front and side curtain airbags to componsate, at least a little bit.

I will always wear it when I'm a guest/passenger in someone elses car, however.

Please don't abuse me for this. I get why its dangerous. I'm answering the question asked.
posted by anastasiav at 10:23 AM on May 8, 2006

Always. It's not like wearing a condom, or something else that's debatably unpleasant- it's effortless and yields a huge benefit in terms of risk reduction... one of the easiest things you can do to make yourself safer, you know?
posted by rxrfrx at 10:23 AM on May 8, 2006

You won't get that many people responding to this question and saying they never wear seatbelts, because many of them have been hurled out of their vehicles and are now deceased. So that might skew your responses somewhat.
posted by jellicle at 10:26 AM on May 8, 2006

In city yes, but 20 - 30 mph backroads by myself rarely (I am 6-4 250lbs so I don't "like" them).
I agree with seatbelt laws for the driver and all minors in a car, but disagree with seatbelt laws for adult passangers (I do wear seatbelts as a passanger)
posted by edgeways at 10:26 AM on May 8, 2006

I always do, since even before I was in a minivan spinning along all three axes simultaneously.

There was one time where for whatever reason I did not buckle up while crossing a road from one parking lot to another. That one time, even though I was on the road for a distance of maybe 25 feet, I got ticketed by an unmarked officer.
posted by ewagoner at 10:29 AM on May 8, 2006

I was a fair-weather seat-belt user when I began driving (in the States, so, just before 16 y/o). I was stopped at the very end of a mile-long line of traffic that had backed up on one of the interstate highways nearby. Road construction had taken over two of the interstate's three lanes. Anyhow, the early-80's Buick that hit me before the driver had a chance to engage his brakes (at all) did horrible violence to my "write it into my Will, leave it to my grandchildren" Volkswagen—the smoothest five gears I've ever shifted through—etched by dramatic demonstration those concepts my physics instructor had lately been at pains to simplify and present so that I would finally understand what he had been going on about for the whole of the preceding week, and left me with this enduring urge to tend to my seat belt before anything else when I drive or ride in a car. (And, too, an enduring urge to avoid decrepit, decades-old Buicks. No; really. Just the other day, one of the things nearly plastered me to the pavement of my grocer's parking lot!)
posted by Yeomans at 10:31 AM on May 8, 2006

I wonder if there's also a split between people who see it as "the law" and people who see it as "normal", if that makes sense? I don't wear a seatbelt because I'm legally required to do so, I wear one because it makes sense and I was taught to do so; I didn't even think of it being a law until someone pointed it out here. It's just something I've always done.

But if the *only* reason you're wearing it is because you're legally required to do so, then I could see chafing at the restriction.

Which means there's likely an age split here as well. Those of us who grew up under the law are more likely not to see it as an imposition. Really, it seems more like brushing my teeth before going to bed -- just something that everyone does because it's good for you.
posted by occhiblu at 10:33 AM on May 8, 2006

My dad's a truck driver, and he drilled it into me that I should always wear one. Thing is, he doesn't always wear his (but only when he's in his personal vehicle).

I remember we were hanging out with a couple of highway patrolmen once (one was a neighbor and he was throwing a party). My dad and one of the patrolmen were talking about seatbelts. The patrolman said, "I've never had to pull a dead body out from underneath a seatbelt." My dad immediately shot back, "Then you haven't been working long enough." The year before that party, my dad had stopped to help someone after seeing a wreck and the person he tried to help was dead on impact, wearing her seatbelt. Doesn't help too much when you slam directly into the back of a tractor-trailer going about 90 mph and the front end of your car fits right under the back part of the trailer. Part of me thinks that that's the reason he doesn't always want to wear his.

Although I'll admit that if I'm riding in the backseat of a car (especially a taxi) I typically don't buckle up. But when I'm driving, EVERYONE will buckle up, I don't care where they're sitting.
posted by educatedslacker at 10:35 AM on May 8, 2006

Always. Because I was brought up that way, so I'm used to it, and see no reason to change.

Also, that's one of the laws that they're very serious about enforcing where I live.
posted by ibmcginty at 10:40 AM on May 8, 2006

But it doesn't care if the backseat passengers don't buckle. Wonder why that is.

It is a Japanese car and few people wear seatbelts in the back seat in that country. In fact, many people put giant doilies over their back seat making seatbelt use nearly impossible. Until recently (from my experience) most people thought that rear passengers were less in risk of accident injuries and that rear seatbelts did no good. Now there is a govenment program set up to notify people that rear passengers are ten times more likely to be killed in an accident if they are not wearing a seatbelt.
posted by Alison at 10:43 AM on May 8, 2006

I always wear my belt. Growing up, we didn't, until I reached the age of 14, when my mother was hit broadside in her Toyota Corolla, breaking her sternum and pelvis. It caused tremendous organ damage and internal hemoragghing. She was in the hospital two months and on crutches for a year. She is alive today only because she was wearing her seatbelt. I saw the car after the wreck and the sight was horrific enough that I nearly passed out.

From that day on, we always wore our belts. I can find no earthly reason not to. I'm glad others do, too, because if I hit a patch of black ice and careen into a non-seatbelt-wearer, killing them, I'd really rather not face the psychological and legal ramifications of manslaughter. People who skip the belt to be rebellious, I don't get. Rebel in some other way that won't impact the people who love you and the strangers that might suffer the ill effects of hurting you or killing you, when you could have protected yourself. Driving's one of those "privilege, not a right" things, and I have no problem with the government stipulating that before piloting two-ton hunks of metal at high speeds, you strap in.
posted by Miko at 10:44 AM on May 8, 2006

There have been a lot of responses from people who always wear seatbelts but don't mind when their passengers don't wear theirs. You should understand that in a collision those unrestrained passengers will become airborne projectiles bouncing about the vehicle, crushing anything and anyone in their way. Allowing passengers to ride unrestrained is just as stupid ans not buckling in yourself.
posted by rocket88 at 10:45 AM on May 8, 2006

Do other countries have harrowing adverts [rm] like this?

I'd imagine this spot and others like it played a big part in persuading people in the UK to wear seatbelts.
posted by Olli at 10:47 AM on May 8, 2006

I have this weird thing where I don't put the belt on for the first thirty seconds to a minute. When I was driving manual, I'd always put it on between second and third gear. Now that I'm in an automatic... it's sometime in the first minute, and before I get onto any 'busy' roads. The routine seems to be, "get the car moving, get the radio tuned, get the air set, buckle up.'

I am entirely mystified as to where this particular habit came from. I realize it's stupid, and I've tried to change it, but I haven't yet succeeded.
posted by Malor at 10:47 AM on May 8, 2006

I always, always, always used to.

Though now that I'm older I rarely wear it. Which I understand is absolutely stupid, and I don't know WHY I don't do it.

I feel like perhaps it was because I constantly saw my father without one when I was a child, while the rest of our family would always buckle up, he would operate the car without his on, and deny anyone's request for him to buckle up.

I know that's also ridiculous, but I feel like there's some sort of psychological pull on me from it.

Honestly though I'm making an active effort.
posted by dead_ at 10:48 AM on May 8, 2006

I always wear my seatbelt and I feel "naked" when I do forget, and usually remembers within the time it takes us to pull out of our parking lot.

It's so ingrained in my mind that I buckle up when I get into the backseat of a taxi. When we're only going, oh, 5 blocks.
posted by Sallysings at 10:59 AM on May 8, 2006

i didn't really wear seatbelts all the time when i was younger, untill my best friend's family got into a really bad accident. my friend (who was 10) was in hospital for a week and broke some bones- she wasn't wearing a seatbelt. her brother (who was 12) just had some bruises because he worse his seatbelt. the dad wasn't wearing one, and was hit head on and really messed up. the mom wore hers, also in the front and was in critical but not so bad condition. that taught me that seatbelts work.

it's funny because i always assumed (especially in california, with "click it or ticket" laws), that people would just wear a seatbelt. my boyfriend's brother didn't and i had to nag him to put it on. dude's an intelligent guy, i didn't understand why he wouldn't do it without some prodding.
posted by kendrak at 11:00 AM on May 8, 2006

I have worn my seatbelt since I turned 16 in 1979 and now feel uncomfortable without it (and I have heard that it can help you maintain control in an accident by keeping you behind the wheel rather than flung to the other side of the car). I am a big man; until recently 5'10" and 280 #, so the whole "big people might be less comfortable" theory never made sense to me.

Our 15 month old daughter will (I hope) learn to never ride without one.
posted by TedW at 11:01 AM on May 8, 2006

Best answer: My grandmother does this weird thing where she holds the seatbelt in place, rather than clipping it in. (This is when she's a passenger. She doesn't drive now, but she never wore one while she was driving). This is in response to us nagging her to wear it. I guess her generation just didn't wear them, and she's too stubborn to change.

I thank god she has never been involved in an accident.

Me, I come from a generation for whom not buckling up is illegal, and who were exposed to road safety adverts like the Julie one above. (The latest is also rather effective - 9mb MPEG). I would never think of not buckling up.
posted by greycap at 11:02 AM on May 8, 2006

In the front seat, invariably. In the back seat, yes, if it occurs to me, but I don't have the same automatic instinct to do it, or feeling of wrongness without it on, as in the front. I don't think I've ever put one on in a taxi, come to think of it.

Speaking of which, does anyone else find it a bit odd that Greyhound buses don't even have seatbelts?
posted by staggernation at 11:10 AM on May 8, 2006

Yes, I always wear one.
However, it may not be an entirely beneficial act [1, 2, 3, 4]
posted by normy at 11:14 AM on May 8, 2006

I always do when driving, and agree with the commenter that feels naked without it, but now that I think about it, I pretty much never buckle up in the backseat.

I don't know about other states, but in Texas it's the law that drivers must wear seatbelts. "Click it or Ticket" is the current slogan for the campaign.

My dad has a '74 AMC Javelin that has a sensor in the front seats that won't let you start the car if there is someone sitting there and the belts aren't buckled.
posted by vanoakenfold at 11:14 AM on May 8, 2006

I always wear a seatbelt in cars and taxis. But there are no seatbelts on the bus that I ride to work every day.

"I did specifically buy a car with front and side curtain airbags to componsate, at least a little bit."

An airbag is effective only in a limited range of positions. Seatbelts are important for keeping in a position where the airbag helps rather than harms. If you don't wear a seatbelt, your airbag could kill you:
"If you do not wear a seatbelt, the airbag can be a weapon, a source of injury... Hundreds of cases of serious injury and deaths have occurred when car occupants were unrestrained and in an unplanned position or were too close to the airbag when it deployed during a crash."
(From the statistics in that article, it does seem that an airbag is better than nothing for a non-seatbelted driver, at least for the types of accident victims they studied.)
posted by mbrubeck at 11:15 AM on May 8, 2006

Always always always...except OCCASIONALLY on the one block trip from my mailbox to the apartment (after being out...don't worry, I don't drive a block to get the mail!). I was conditioned when I first started driving... the car was an early '70s Datsun B210 that wouldn't start if the seatbelt wasn't buckled. I feel pretty naked without it.
posted by lhauser at 11:18 AM on May 8, 2006

I used to not wear one in a taxi. I think this came from living in London where black cabs feel so unlike a regular car I somehow convinced myself the risks were lower. I saw not wearing a belt as some kind of "treat".

I always wear one now, after driving home at four one morning and getting stuck in a huge traffic jam. When we got to the front we saw that it was caused by a cab flipped on its roof and crushed almost flat. I would not have worn a belt for that short cab ride with so little traffic on the road.

I also started to think that it wasn't just my life I was risking. It would suck to kill some poor guy just doing his (probably not very fun) job driving me around.
posted by crabintheocean at 11:20 AM on May 8, 2006

I'm old enough to remember when cars didn't have belts.
I've always belted up, and the car goes nowhere until the passengers do likewise.
The most common excuse I hear from people who don't belt always seems to be that, in the even of an accident, they want to be thrown clear of the wreck.
Dynamic Darwinism.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:30 AM on May 8, 2006

I grew up not wearing my seatbelt, despite the fact that I was born in '83. In fact, until I was 8, my dad drove a 280Z and my parents would ride in the seats and then put me in the "trunk" area, or I'd ride on my mom's lap.

I started wearing my seatbelt when I started driver's ed in 10th grade.

Whenever I am driving, I buckle up. When I'm riding, not so much. Quite a few of my friends rarely wear theirs; I'm not sure why, considering we've all been in accidents that have resulted in flipped/totaled cars.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 11:33 AM on May 8, 2006

Always, even for trivially short trips. When driving, I don't feel like I have adequate control without the belt, and as a passenger it just feels more comfortable. I really don't like sliding around on a seat in a vehicle; I'd even feel better with a fighter-jet style harness. Not because of the safety, because it makes one feel more tightly integrated with the vehicle.

For whatever reason, though, I pretty much never wear a seatbelt in professionally-piloted vehicles like taxis or buses. I don't like either form of transportation, though, and rarely take them. I wonder if the seatbelt thing is a contributing factor.
posted by breath at 11:38 AM on May 8, 2006

Well, my '55 doesn't have seat belts (except in the back, where I installed them so we could use the kid's car seats). But I grew up with out them (we had '65 International Havester 1 1/4 ton pickup and '61 Corvair when I was a kid, both pre-seatbelt). I will eventually put some in, but I only drive the car to work about 30 times a year; when its too rainy for the Harley. Even so, just being in a car is probably way safer than riding the motorcycle.
posted by 445supermag at 11:41 AM on May 8, 2006

Always for me. My husband (boyfriend at the time) never used to wear his, but once we were together I berated him until he started wearing it. Two weeks after, he was in a bad car accident where he would have gone through the windshield if he didn't wear it. I don't have to remind him any more.

If I'm driving, everyone in the car must wear one too. I say, "If you don't care that you will fly around in the car in the event of an accident, that's your business, but I do care if your body causes injury to me if it does so. So buckle up, please."
posted by agregoli at 11:44 AM on May 8, 2006


But most people could probably guess that by now. :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 11:46 AM on May 8, 2006

Always, and I have a horrible "probably saved my life" accident story too. The only upside to the accident was that it gives me a sort of moral authority over my older relatives who never had to wear one back in India. I can claim that I'm too scared to drive if they don't wear seatbelts, kind of a PTSD-related loophole to the iron clad "don't question your elders" law.
posted by synapse at 11:46 AM on May 8, 2006

I noticed once that I felt really uncomfortable riding my bike without my usual shoulder-strap messenger bag. I realized that it was because the bag strap feels like a seat belt, even though obviously it isn't attached to anything except me.

Thank you, nev! I switched to using panniers instead of a messenger bag a few weeks ago (after years of using the bag), and I've been trying to figure out why I feel so naked and unprotected ever since. The shoulder strap acting as a psychic seat belt is definitely the answer. Now that I know, maybe I can stop being weirded out by it.

And, yeah. I've been in enough auto accidents in my life that I always wear a seat belt.
posted by hades at 11:47 AM on May 8, 2006

Always. Basic understanding of physics.
posted by bitmage at 11:48 AM on May 8, 2006

Evidently quite a few people still don't wear seatbelts. The police periodically setup a seatbelt sting at the intersection near my house. I sat and watched them for about 5 minutes recently, and they were constantly pulling people over for not wearing seatbelts.
posted by jsonic at 11:52 AM on May 8, 2006

Agreed with occhiblu, above. It might be an age split. And I can certainly see that if I only wore a seatbelt because of fear of getting a ticket, I'd be a lot more reluctant and resentful. Like occhiblu, I wear it because that's what you do: both habit and with the thought of safety in mind, not because of law enforcement.
posted by raedyn at 11:53 AM on May 8, 2006

I wear mine 95% of the time. Some short trips I'll blow it off. To my future chagrin, most likely.

My parents never wore theirs, and I'm not sure why. Just kind of a screw-you thing, I guess.

My grandmother was hilarious...she never put hers on, but if she saw a police car she'd start clawing over her shoulder frantically trying to find the seat belt...usually by the time she grabbed it the police had long since passed.
posted by Bud Dickman at 11:55 AM on May 8, 2006

Always, though I didn't used to consistently; I may have made it a habit around the time I started flossing. As you get older, I guess you either stick with the stupidities of your youth or you start thinking harder about preserving yourself...
posted by languagehat at 11:59 AM on May 8, 2006

I always wear my seatbelt and I will not get into or drive a car in which others are not wearing theirs. In college, I knew a few "rebels" who did not want to wear their belts in my car. They insisted that they would take charge of their own safety and that they would pay any fines. I told them that I did not care if they were careless with their own safety and that I did not care if they died. I told them that I did care if their head hit mine and killed me, that I cared if I saw them splattered over the road and had to endure years of therapy, that I cared if I had to waste my time with courts and hospitals, and that I cared if I had to take time out of my day to deal with insurance. I emphasized that mostly I cared if they killed me. People were usually so shocked by my callous attitude that they buckled up...or got out.
posted by acoutu at 12:03 PM on May 8, 2006

Yes, always. And anyone that rides in my car has to wear one too. I had a friend of mine killed in a car wreck in 3rd grade. She was riding in her grandparent's convertible with the top down, and when the car flipped over she was thrown out because she wasn't wearing a seatbelt.

See Also: The Nuisance of Seatbelts Darwin Award.
posted by geeky at 12:15 PM on May 8, 2006

Always. Some pretty scary stories on this thread. Maybe not so surprising; I've been in five significant accidents myself, and I'm only 36.

This 1999 article mentions that the rate of seatbelt usage in the United States is roughly 70%. Also: Proper lap-shoulder belt use reduces the risk of death to front-seat car passengers by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent. For front-seat occupants of vans, sport utility vehicles, and pickup trucks, the risk of death is reduced by 60 percent and the risk of injury by 65 percent when lap-shoulder belts are used correctly.
posted by russilwvong at 12:25 PM on May 8, 2006

My seat belt has saved my life once. I always wear it.
posted by knave at 12:27 PM on May 8, 2006

I always wear a seatbelt. I feel weirdly exposed without it. I've had two friends who survived broken necks because they wore theirs, and one other who would probably be braindead if he hadn't been wearing his.
posted by lekvar at 12:35 PM on May 8, 2006

Like many of you, I'm downright uncomfortable if I'm not wearing a seatbelt in a car. Other people's cars, taxis, whatever. (In fact, while traveling in Asia, I always chose the front seat in taxis because it was the only seat with a seatbelt.)

I got broadsided once -- I was driving, and the oncoming car hit me square in the driver's door at about 60 mph. I walked away with a broken collarbone and a separated shoulder, thanks to the seatbelt. If I wouldn't have been wearing it, I probably wouldn't be here to answer this question.

In fact, I wonder if that's throwing off your results. Heh.
posted by liet at 12:40 PM on May 8, 2006

I have since I was about 19, before that I thought they were really un-cool and only for uptight worry warts. No I feel uncomfortable if I'm Not wearing it. I'm 36.
posted by zgott300 at 12:58 PM on May 8, 2006

I feel naked without mine.

I drive a convertible and when the top is down especially, it's good to know you are strapped in. Plus, I feel more in control of the car in turns.
posted by The Deej at 1:04 PM on May 8, 2006

I always wear my seat belt. I feel uncomfortable if I don't have it on.
posted by disaster77 at 1:29 PM on May 8, 2006

When I'm driving - Yes, because I don't want to get a ticket.
When I'm a passenger(front seat) - Yes again, because I don't want the driver to get a ticket.
When I'm a passenger(rear seat) - Very rarely but I will if asked or somewhere it is the law. Quite frankly though, if someone pulled that "the car doesn't move until everyone is buckled up" passive-aggressive nonsense, I'd much rather walk.

Always wearing a seatbelt while driving is a habit engrained in me, since most of my driving has been in a state with a "primary enforcement" law, meaning you can be pulled over only for not wearing a seatbelt. A number of states only have secondary enforcement, meaning the police need another reason to pull you over before giving you a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt.

Would I wear it if the law went away? Probably, it's so much a habit now, I'd probably do it without thinking.
posted by madajb at 1:43 PM on May 8, 2006

Growing up, I didn't wear a seatbelt. (My mom told me I would sleep on the floorboard of the backseat as an infant!) The turning point for me was when I was in the 8th grade and two students told my class a couple of nightmarish stories about people being disfigured or killed because they weren't wearing seatbelts when they had wrecks. The fear tactics worked, and I've worn one since.

What amazes me is seeing children in cars without seatbelts. I even saw a toddler laying across the dashboard of an SUV once. It amazes me how often I see this, and it makes me want to pull the offending car over and give them a talking to.
posted by lucyleaf at 2:02 PM on May 8, 2006

Wasn't really big on wearing them until I started watching NASCAR. Some of the crashes are survivable only because of the restraints. So I find myself clicking it on now more often than before, but nowhere near 100% of the time.
posted by Gungho at 2:03 PM on May 8, 2006

I always wear mine. Around here, the police can and will pull you over and issue you a citation for not wearing a seat belt.
Besides, they really do save lives.
posted by drstein at 2:22 PM on May 8, 2006

I can't wait to see which one of these was the best answer.
posted by found missing at 2:31 PM on May 8, 2006

Always, always, always.

Why? Because I'm not completely ignorant.
posted by bshort at 3:01 PM on May 8, 2006

Best answer: Just about never. It irks me that the law says I have to, and that more and more states allow cops to pull you over if they see you without one. In fact, the only ticket I've had in the last 10 years was a no seatbelt ticket that I got because a cop pulled up next to me and saw me without it.

Fscking hate the buggers. (seatbelts, not cops) Probably because I am not a small person and getting them on is a pain in the butt, and in unfamiliar cars can be quite embarassing. Sorry, dude, I'm too fat to use the seatbelt in your car.

But what really bugs me is the law. Damned nanny nation. One day the insurance industry is going make it illegal to go to bed without brushing your teeth. Yeah yeah they save lives, but so does eating right and excercising and last I heard it was still legal to sit your ass on the couch for 24 hours straight watching Miami Vice reruns and eating Little Debbies by the case.

You want to save lives on the road? Try teaching some of these retards on the road how to drive. Put down the cellphone. Put down the lipstick. Put down the electric shaver. Put down that goddamned bigmac and drive.
posted by jaded at 3:03 PM on May 8, 2006

The selfishness, stupidity and shortsightedness of those who don't wear a seatbelt is mindboggling.

Selfish because if you are killed in an accident, you are depriving and harming your loved ones; emotionally, as a provider...any number of ways. If you become a vegetable or paraplegic as a result of an accident, someone is now going to have to take care of you, including probably the taxpayer. If you have a collision, the force can throw you away from the controls of the car, thereby causing you to lose control of the car and possibly kill or injure an innocent bystander or other driver, or your own child.

Stupid and vain people who don't wear a seatbelt because it is "uncomfortable" or it "messes their clothes" are demonstrating that they do not have the emotional maturity to operate a car. It's not all about you. It's about the safety of everybody around you and connected with you. It's a civic responsibility. If you have no sense of civic responsibility, you should not be driving.
posted by Nicholas West at 3:10 PM on May 8, 2006

I wear one. It's scary to think of driving without it.
posted by limeonaire at 3:40 PM on May 8, 2006

I wear one because when I was a kid, my parents wouldn't start the car until my siblings and I were buckled in.

Now, it's both habit and common sense.
posted by sellout at 4:07 PM on May 8, 2006

I've always worn a seat belt, ever since I was a kid ("Clunk, click, every trip!"), and I'm 46 now. It's blindingly obvious why you should wear one, and anyone who doesn't must be some kind of simpleton, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by Decani at 4:21 PM on May 8, 2006

Always, and I won't start the car until everyone is buckled up.

But, for the most part, I don't have any problem riding unbuckled in buses or cabs. Don't know why, although in the last few years I've been more likely to buckle up in a cab, especially on the freeway.
posted by MsMolly at 4:42 PM on May 8, 2006

i never wear one when i drive. i do wear one when i'm a passenger and the driver hints (heck, it's on their insurance).

why? freedom to die. some bizarre mixture of fatalism, poverty, and 'cause why-the-hell-should-the-cops-bust-chops-for-insurance-companies? not having had health insurance in decades, i'm more comfortable with the prospect of shuffling off this mortal coil than disability and crushing lifelong debt to hospital bills. (if you're going to drive on highways in the u.s. these days, you should get comfortable with the idea of death anyway, no?).

sure, they save lives. i've been in a few car accidents (not driving) two of which were rolling/burning episodes of craziness. and i'd probably be dead without the strap in those instances. but hey people, sometimes there's a need to roll the cosmic dice! that's our own choice, selfish, or fatalistic, or whatever it may be.

[jeez, what a bunch of do-gooders here...:]
posted by garfy3 at 4:45 PM on May 8, 2006

i always wear one ... there have been a few times when i haven't because it didn't work or there wasn't one ... i was not comfortable with that

i've been in 3 accidents under 35 mph and each time i was uninjured ... i don't believe i would have been uninjured if i hadn't been wearing a seat belt

it's just plain sense
posted by pyramid termite at 4:59 PM on May 8, 2006

I never did until I had a tempo with automatic seatbelts. Now it feels weird if I don't. Besides, it's nice not sliding around when I decide to drive insane.
posted by cellphone at 5:01 PM on May 8, 2006

I used to have the habit where I'd start driving and put the seatbelt on at the first stop sign or stop light I came to. To break the habit, I would punish myself by driving back to where I started and start the trip again.

If people believe that they shouldn't have to wear seatbelts just because it's a law, I agree with them, providing we pass laws making it illegal for paramedics to help any accident victims who aren't wearing a belt. (OK, that's a little harsh. Let's say that those victims have to wait until everyone else -- and I'm including bystanders with hangnails -- have all been treated.)
posted by forrest at 5:07 PM on May 8, 2006

I also feel naked when I'm not harnessed to my seat, but I didn't always wear one when I was a kid. My mom had a minivan and when my sister would claim shotgun, I used to sit on the little ledge behind the front seats. Somewhere about age eight or nine I got all OCD about myself and my loved ones dying gruesomely in car accidents and I think that's what made me get religious about it. Now buckling up is completely automatic.

In retrospect, the bizarre factor here is my mom, who was scrupulous about our safety in all other regards. I think the explanation must be what others here have suggested - she grew up in a rural area in the Forties and Fifties, where there wasn't the same indoctrination to the cult of the belt that I've been exposed to (I'm 22), and just never got in the habit. It's strange because she's gotten two tickets for being unbuckled, and has been in an accident that would likely have been very bad if she hadn't been buckled. But she's still spotty about it. I think it's just not automatic for her - she has to think about it, actively remember to do it, but she doesn't always remember because for her it doesn't feel wrong to be without it like it does with me.

This is getting long but real quick: I went to the first day of an Intro to Microeconomics class in the fall and the professor told us an anecdote about getting a ride home from someone who requested that he put on his seatbelt. He asked why, and she responded, "So you'll be safer." And he said, "Well, if you're really worried about my safety, then I should buckle up, but you shouldn't, so you'll be inclined to drive more safely for your own sake, thus incidentally benefitting me." I think it was supposed to illustrate some principle of economics but I ended up not being able to take the class so I'm not sure what. Maybe coldly rational self-preservation.

Oh yeah, and I don't wear a bike helmet. Why? Vanity. But I'm sure a scare campaign would be enough to change my mind.
posted by granted at 5:21 PM on May 8, 2006

Yes, always: driving or as a passenger. Clunk-click in the late 70s pretty much rammed it home in the UK. It still boggles me a little that you'll see signposts every few miles in the US telling you to belt up. Frankly, I have a hard time with anyone arguing otherwise: it's a bit like arguing in favour of driving drunk.
posted by holgate at 5:23 PM on May 8, 2006

Yes, always, as does anyone who wants to ride in my car. I have since I was a kid and I feel uncomfortable without it. In fact, I feel on edge even if a passenger briefly undoes their belt to reach something, although I refrain from yelling at them.
posted by pocams at 5:27 PM on May 8, 2006

Yes, I always wear a seat belt. As a child, the car didn't move until everyone had buckled in, and now I do the same as a driver.

I did stop and help once at an accident where I don't know if the people would have survived without their seatbelts (rolling many times across a highway into a river) and seeing them able to get out walk away really reinforced the safety message.
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:35 PM on May 8, 2006

Oh, and by always, I mean even in taxis. I'd wear a seat belt on the bus if they had 'em.
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:40 PM on May 8, 2006

It's the law here in my part of Australia, has been virtually all my life, but also comon sense. My parents wouldn't start the car till we were all buckled in. It feels unnatural not to be wearing one, and I've never found them uncomfortable. I also buckle up in taxis, always; but interestingly, not in buses even when a belt is available. Hmmm.
posted by andraste at 5:41 PM on May 8, 2006

I always wear my seatbelt, require my passengers to wear theirs, and tell my car-seat-buckled toddler how stupid other drivers are for not wearing theirs.

As for the government-isn't-my-mommy argument: Physics is no respecter of libertarian opinions.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:53 PM on May 8, 2006

Always. Obligatory story: head-on accident, walked out of the car with four bruises (one for each hip, one for each knee) and long-term neck and back pain.

I also feel weird on a bus.
posted by moira at 6:04 PM on May 8, 2006

Best answer: I wear a seatbelt 90% of the time in automobiles, 100% of the time in airplanes. No particular reason for not wearing one all the time in cars, but of the 5 major wrecks I've been involved in as a driver or passenger in an automobile, the two in which I received injuries happened when I was wearing a belt, and the 3 in which I was unhurt, I was unbelted.

The 3 point belts most cars have are kind of joke anyway in rollover accidents, or side impacts, but use rates would drop still more (and costs go up) if 4 point aircraft style belts became the norm. On the ground, it's all a question of cost/convenience/perceived benefit anyway. In the air, where you have significant 3rd dimension displacements routinely, and you can easily pull maneuvers that will take you out of your seat on negative G force, belts really are needed for maintenance of normal control.
posted by paulsc at 6:38 PM on May 8, 2006


I even have a seatbelt installed on my toilet.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:44 PM on May 8, 2006

I always wear mine, for safety reasons and because it is law here in California. My passengers either wear theirs or leave the vehicle.

People who don't wear seatbelts tend to be young, poor men without health insurance. Your tax dollars are wasted paying for the weeks in intensive care required to heal their preventable injuries.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:12 PM on May 8, 2006

I always wear a seatbelt and I always make all my passengers wear one, up to and including refusing to move the car even an inch until everyone's buckled up.

I have met people who argued against seatbelts, saying that people can get trapped in the car etc., which is bullshit. These people make me really really angry. Believe what you want to believe but don't go around endangering other people's lives with your stupid ideas.

Next time you're at a loose end, have a friend drop a bag of cement out of a second-story window and catch it. That's what a car crash at only 30MPH is like. Now let your five-year-old catch it. Just kidding.

I once read an interview with a senior highway patrol officer who said that there were indeed accidents in which a person might be trapped in a car by their seatbelt, but those accidents were of such a serious nature that the person would be dead, dying or unconscious anyway.

There's one case in which a seatbelt may be unsafe, and that's when a child is too small for it to fit properly. Peer pressure and the perception that the car seat is "for babies" appears to be the main problem here, because a kid of three years old or so often wants to sit in the front and sit in a normal seat like the big kids do. Resist that pester power.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:16 PM on May 8, 2006

...and even that rant isn't what I came here to say.

What makes me even madder is that nobody in movies puts on a seatbelt.

Hollywood is too prissy to show anyone smoking unless they're unmistakably evil to the core, but when was the last time you saw someone in a movie get in a car and put on a seatbelt?

Case in point? Denzel Washington in "John Q". The movie is about a man who loves his child so much that he would go to the most incredible, desperate lengths to save him. But they ride around in a pickup truck and the kid's standing up in the back seat with no belt on. What's wrong with this picture?

Even worse, in action movies people will get involved in a high-speed chase and only then will they say "buckle up", thereby sending the message that belts aren't for normal driving, only crazy insane dangerous driving.

Who wants to help me set up a pressure group to make movie actors wear their damn seatbelts?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:35 PM on May 8, 2006

Hell, I even buckle up in the back seat, though my friends call me a dork. My buddy's cousin got thrown out of the vehicle while sitting the back seat of their minivan when it flipped over and was killed instantly.
posted by exhilaration at 7:45 PM on May 8, 2006

I always wear a seatbelt. I have only been in relatively minor car accidents as both a passenger and driver and I was completely uninjured. However, in any of them, if I had not been wearing a seatbelt I would probably be in worse condition. Also, when I have to slam on my breaks, or anyone I am driving with slams on their breaks, I am always very happy for my seatbelt.

My father, however, refuses to wear a seatbelt when driving because he believes that if he wears a seatbelt and gets into a car accident, he will become stuck in his car. He also believes that if he does not wear the seatbelt he will be able to rescue his passengers if there is an accident because he will not be stuck in the car.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 7:50 PM on May 8, 2006

I have this weird thing where I don't put the belt on for the first thirty seconds to a minute. When I was driving manual, I'd always put it on between second and third gear. Now that I'm in an automatic... it's sometime in the first minute, and before I get onto any 'busy' roads. The routine seems to be, "get the car moving, get the radio tuned, get the air set, buckle up.' I am entirely mystified as to where this particular habit came from. I realize it's stupid, and I've tried to change it, but I haven't yet succeeded.

I do exactly the same thing, and I think I have an explanation for it.

Driving with a manual shift requires two hands when starting up -- one on the steering wheel and one on the shifter. But for most people, buckling the seatbelt also requires, at least for an instant, both hands. You do a handoff of the belt from one hand to the other, and/or reach left across your body with your right hand. I can only do this when I can resort to steering with my knee, which really means that I need to be going straight and just using my knee to stabilize the steering wheel. So, the first moment both hands can be freed, I unconsciously put the belt on.

Which usually happens sometime after shifting into 2nd gear and getting down the road a few seconds. I use the belt religiously, but only put it on after the car gets moving forward. I've tried to change (at the GF's behest) but it's not happening. For a while I tried to develop a rule of not allowing myself out of 1st gear until belted, but that didn't last long.

I think I learned it from both of my parents, who are religious belters but also do the belting-while-driving motion.

In 20 years, not a single accident. And I'm generally an aggressive driver ...
posted by intermod at 8:01 PM on May 8, 2006

Always, even the shortest journeys. Getting into the car and clicking in the seatbelt is an subconscious move these days.

.. but then I always lived in countries where its the law, including the rear seat, and they will pull you over if you don't, and random stop checks which sometimes is seatbelt, sometimes breathaliser.
posted by lundman at 8:12 PM on May 8, 2006

freociouskitty, moving the seat back gives the belt more slack, and may make it easier for you to buckle up as a passenger. I sometimes forget to wear mine. I grew up not wearing them. I used to have a little photo holder with my son's picture that said "Somebody Loves You - Buckle Up." It really helped me remember why I should.

Babies always ride in car seats, and kids are always, always, properly seatbelted. no exceptions.
posted by theora55 at 8:45 PM on May 8, 2006

Slight derail....AmbroseChapel: where I live, it's the law for kids to sit in a full booster seat until they are 8 or 9.
posted by acoutu at 8:51 PM on May 8, 2006

"i never wear one when i drive. i do wear one when i'm a passenger and the driver hints (heck, it's on their insurance).

why? freedom to die. some bizarre mixture of fatalism, poverty, and 'cause why-the-hell-should-the-cops-bust-chops-for-insurance-companies? not having had health insurance in decades, i'm more comfortable with the prospect of shuffling off this mortal coil than disability and crushing lifelong debt to hospital bills. (if you're going to drive on highways in the u.s. these days, you should get comfortable with the idea of death anyway, no?).

sure, they save lives. i've been in a few car accidents (not driving) two of which were rolling/burning episodes of craziness. and i'd probably be dead without the strap in those instances. but hey people, sometimes there's a need to roll the cosmic dice! that's our own choice, selfish, or fatalistic, or whatever it may be.

[jeez, what a bunch of do-gooders here...:]"

Only thinking of yourself and your own "rights" and "freedom" to do what you want. Not of anyone else who may be injured by what you do. Only of your own comfort shuffling off this mortal coil; not whether anyone else is comfortable with it. Being concerned with your own and others' safety is "do gooding".

The classic completely self-involved person who should never be allowed to drive.
posted by Nicholas West at 10:00 PM on May 8, 2006

I just had to do a quick kid pick-up and, 'cause I'd just been reading this thread, stopped after buckling up and took note of what I did.

Dense description follows:

While I'm putting the key in the ignition, I'm putting my left arm through the belt. As I'm starting the car, I'm locating the buckle with my left hand and preparing to draw the belt. As the car starts, I use my right hand to buckle the belt. This takes about as much time as it takes the engine to settle into idle. Just as it's hitting idle, I'm releasing the parking brake. Simultaneously, I'm taking a glance about to ensure everything's clear (I even do this in my own driveway. It's entirely instinctual these days!) By the time I'm ready to go, the engine oil has had a couple seconds to circulate and it's time to put it into gear and move.

Y'all who buckle up after you start moving may wish to take note: this all takes place in the time I'd have to allot to engine warm-up anyway (well under ten seconds total). If I weren't buckling-up, I'd be just sitting there picketing.

What do you do during the brief period between starting and engaging gear? Seriously, I'm curious.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:38 PM on May 8, 2006

Best answer: I never wear a seatbelt. After reading this thread, I'm going to start.
posted by growabrain at 11:00 PM on May 8, 2006

Best answer: I never wear a seabelt. After reading this thread, I still won't.
posted by jne1813 at 11:10 PM on May 8, 2006

Always. In taxis, always. (Especially in Rome, good god!). If they had them in buses, I would wear them. If they had a 5-point harness available for my car, I would wear it.

My daughter was well trained at two. Her dad had a tendency to wait to put his on until he paused to check for traffic as he pulled back out of the driveway. She would have none of it - "BUCKLE!!!!!" came the cry from the back seat, relentless.

For those of you who choose not to wear it, I have two main thoughts:

1. Fine. Let's put you guys in a *totally separate* risk pool for car insurance. You guys pay the rates that support the medical care needed for your injuries, and we belt-wearers pay the rates that support the medical care for ours. Sounds fair to me.

2. Sign up as an organ donor, please. There's always a shortage.
posted by beth at 12:30 AM on May 9, 2006

Always. A good friend of mine died in my first year of college in a car accident because she wasn't wearing a seatbelt. That was the stupidest thing in the world, made me angry for years, and I would never want to inflict that on somebody else.
posted by number9dream at 1:11 AM on May 9, 2006

I always wear my seatbelt, and so does everyone I know. It's illegal to drive (or be a passenger) in New Zealand without wearing a seatbelt. I'd wear it anyway, I'd feel very vulnerable without it. I had one friend who didn't like to wear a seatbelt about 10 or 12 years ago, myself and all of his other friends peer pressured him until he started wearing it.
posted by The Monkey at 1:58 AM on May 9, 2006

I've seen Crash.
Yeah, I wear a seatbelt.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:20 AM on May 9, 2006

Always. I didn't grow up doing it, but I'm old.

I used to only do it for longer distance. Then one day I was rear-ended, and happened to have on my belt (and I wouldn't normally have done so). I got away with no more than a sore neck and a caved-in trunk on a car I'd bought 4 days earlier. Now I always wear a belt.

Taxi: I belt up if I find myself slidding around on the back seat. In the front seat, I'd always wear it.
posted by Goofyy at 3:35 AM on May 9, 2006

I've seen Crash.
Yeah, I wear a seatbelt.

Oh god there's another thing movies do. The only time you see a seatbelt is when someone's trapped by one. How does that terribly simple steel catch become inoperable because your car has turned upside down? Or the inertia reel for that matter.

I realise that movies have to heighten drama, but still. You could do the same thing by having the door not open, which is a thousand times more likely.

Seriously. We should start a campaign.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:01 AM on May 9, 2006

Do you wear your seatbelt?

Yes, now, all the time, though where and when I grew up it was a little more like a couple people mentioned earlier, with no one wearing seat belts, and with that being the least of your worries because kids were zooming around drunk. There were no air bags, no automatic suspension and braking systems, nothing but metal and glass boxes zooming down country roads, many of them at top speed and piloted by kids who'd had a few too many beers.

But social pressure backed by smart laws make people change their minds.

You could do the same thing by having the door not open, which is a thousand times more likely.

That's why I drive with the belt unbuckled and all the doors wide open.

People have stupid reasons for not wearing seatbelts, and most of them do seem to be from watching TV. They think crap like car crash = big fiery explosion = little time to get out and run fast and dive on to the ground = better not wear a belt.

As for being too fat to wear a belt, well, don't buy a car that doesn't have a seat belt that fits you. You wouldn't buy a car whose air bags were insufficient to stop fat people, would you? What are you thinking, that you're fat, so they don't need to cater to you, you're expendable? Use you head for something better than popping a hole in your windshield.
posted by pracowity at 4:50 AM on May 9, 2006

AmbroseChapel, I actually meant this Crash.
By Cronenberg.

The one about 'car crash fetishists'...
posted by slimepuppy at 5:35 AM on May 9, 2006

Fine. Let's put you guys in a *totally separate* risk pool for car insurance.

Sure. But only if I get to be in a separate pool from all the people who ever talk on their cell phone, eat, keep their squabbling kids in line, put on lipstick, or otherwise distract themselves when they drive. I may not always wear my belt, but I don't do don't do any of the above, ever.
posted by desuetude at 6:38 AM on May 9, 2006

I may not always wear my belt, but I don't do don't do any of the above, ever.

But even if those people cause a crash through inattentiveness, if everyone's got a belt on, chances are much better than no one will die.
posted by Miko at 7:52 AM on May 9, 2006

Always always always. Without fail.
I value my life. And it's just a belt, it's not like it's a pain to use.
posted by Radio7 at 2:52 PM on May 9, 2006

Yes, I can't drive without one, nor with someone next to me who doesn't buckle up.

And it's really weird that you would pick a 'best answer' to this question. O.k. Not weird. Silly.
posted by justgary at 3:01 PM on May 9, 2006

Yes, absolutely. Suffice to say, this is a no-brainer. Also, I don't want to be caught dead for not wearing one. You see, I've always mocked (and still do) teen pregnancies because I grew up bombarded by after-school PSAs extolling the benefits of wearing a rubber. Consequently, I always wear a rubber. On a similar note, I always wear a seatbelt just so that I'll never be regarded as "that idiot in the after-school PSA who died because he didn't wear a seatbelt".

'Sides, depending on the material of the seatbelt, you get used to it, like wearing a ring on your finger. And there are plenty of products out there that make seatbelt-wearing more comfortable.
posted by freakystyley at 3:42 PM on May 9, 2006

Always. (I used to work for the National Transportation Safety Board. Once you've seen some animations of vehicle occupant kinetics, you'll think twice about not wearing a seat belt.)
posted by candyland at 6:11 PM on May 9, 2006

Always buckled. And TedW is right about it keeping the driver at the controls in an impact, making it a safety issue for those around the driver, too, whether they are inside or outside of the car.
posted by NortonDC at 8:17 PM on May 9, 2006

My parents started wearing seatbelts on the day I was born (I'm their oldest child.)

My mom's grandfarther was killed in an accident (thrown through the windshield) while my mom and her sister were saved only by being in the backseat. Nobody in the car was wearing a seatbelt.

I have no idea why she waited so long.
posted by nicething at 9:35 PM on May 9, 2006

Response by poster: And it's really weird that you would pick a 'best answer' to this question. O.k. Not weird. Silly.

Why? I marked the answers that I thought were especially interesting or that got to the heart of what I was interested in knowing. So, for my purposes, the best answers.

Thanks, by the way, to everybody who responded to this question. It's been a most interesting, and enlightening, discussion.
posted by dseaton at 7:14 AM on May 10, 2006

I know it's a little late in the post, but I just saw it.
I never wore seatbelts until I was 16. It wasn't a law and the cars I rode in didn't have them! I still didn't wear them when my parents got a new car with belts. Friends of the family from Italy would automatically buckle in and I'd remark on how strange it was to do such a thing.
Everything, everything changed when I started driving and realized how little control we have when on the road. My seatbelt->headlight->ignition->radio sequence is almost a reflex now.
posted by pantsrobot at 10:12 AM on May 10, 2006


if I had my way, everyone would have a 10 inch metal spike attached to their steering wheel pointing at their head.

Wonder how many accidents we'd see then?
posted by DrtyBlvd at 11:14 AM on May 10, 2006

With the metal spikes, we would probably have fewer accidents, with a similar number of driver fatalities as now (since every accident would be fatal), and fewer non-drivers killed. But our journeys would be way slower. It's a trade-off.

(More about risk compensation and the steering wheel spike idea in John Adams' Risk).
posted by blue grama at 8:45 PM on May 24, 2006

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