“Have you got your seat belt on?” is one of the first things, if not the first thing, you hear (in some way, shape or form) when you step into a car for the first time. I can’t remember the first time my mother told me this because it was such a long time ago, but I certainly haven’t heard it the last time. I passed my driving test in 2013 and yet whenever I’m in the passenger seat the same question is posed to me. Not that I need to hear to be prompted – it is an instinctive reaction to reach over my shoulder once the car door is shut, pull the polyester strap across and clip it into place.
And there’s the point. This action should be second nature, and for the majority of you reading, it probably is. I’d like to think that for my generation it isn’t something we really have to consider, to wear or not to wear a seat belt, as it has been drummed into us from an early age and we are well aware of the consequences: an on-the-spot fine up to £500 (being the least of your worries), and a telling off from your parents if they catch you being the second least. The worst consequence you have to consider is, if you did ever have a car accident whilst not wearing a seat belt, statistically you are twice as likely to not survive… So I definitely get a bit particular if I’m driving friends and family about, even if it’s just round the corner.
The term anxiety is thrown around far too often but you could use that to describe my feelings towards the matter, especially if I’m on taxi duty, ferrying some friends to town for the night after they’ve already had a few drinks. Because even if I tell them, sometimes twice, to put the damn thing on it is still completely out of my control – I’m not going to do it up for them. The thought of someone close to me coming into harm’s way over something as mundane as securing yourself to a seat with a plastic chord leaves me sullen.
Think twice about your safety and the safety of others
Now you’re probably picturing me as ‘that guy’ (you know what I mean), which is fair enough. But I will be the first to admit that I have fallen foul of my own morals, particularly when it’s an around-the-corner trip that takes a matter of seconds. Yet writing this has made me consider why I sometimes did not make the choice to be safer. It’s tragic when you hear of car accidents in the news that have left people hurt or killed, more so when it is reported that the occupants could have done more to protect themselves. I suppose everyone thinks the same when they see such a story and yet it continues to happen. Perhaps less incidents are reported due to the fact that cars are becoming increasingly safer thanks to higher crash testing standards employed in recent years, which masks the fact that somewhere out there, someone is showing negligence towards not only themselves, but also their loved ones.
So the question you should ask yourself before the half a bottle of wine, three VKs, a double Squa-dka and a ride in your mate’s car to the club is: do I want to be a headline in tomorrow’s newspaper?