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Beyond the Friday Funnies 

Derek NelsonDerek Nelson has been writing the Friday Funnies since 2002. He also creates the Photo of the Week feature for this website. A long-time Naval Safety Center employee, he is head of the Media Division in the Communications and Marketing Department. He is author of more than 200 freelance magazine articles and ten books about Americana and military history.

Trust Me, the Jury Isn't Out on Seatbelts

Posted July 24, 2012

I’m not patient under the best of circumstances, but one thing that spools me up even more quickly than usual is people who refuse to take advantage of well-designed, proven, easy-to-use protective equipment (namely, the seatbelt-shoulder-harness combo in their cars). And then, as if that bit of behavior weren’t stupid and self-destructive enough, they make up lame reasons (a.k.a., “excuses”) for not buckling up.

The seatbelt isn’t experimental technology. Don’t waste time weighing pros and cons. If buckling up isn’t a habit, do it until it becomes one.

Here’s the kind of thing that can happen when you start thinking about it, courtesy of an aviation ordnanceman second class. He drove his Jeep police cruiser up a mountain at a naval radio station to check some antennas. It was dark when he headed back down the mountain. The gravel road didn't have reflectors or guard rails.

He got to thinking about what would happen if he drove off the side of the mountain. He didn't want to rattle around inside the Jeep all the way down. He’d rather be able to jump out. So he decided not to buckle up. He probably thought of this as risk management.

He was also driving 5 or 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. Possibly, this was another risk-management technique, minimizing his exposure to the rolling-down-the-mountain scenario.

He wrecked the Jeep anyway. It didn’t roll down the mountain, but it racked up $6K worth of damage. The mishap report said the Sailor had taken the emergency-vehicle-operators course, but I doubt that it teaches jumping ship from an out-of-control vehicle as a legitimate life-preserving ploy.

I’ve read a lot of mishap reports through the years containing the phrase "Did not wear seatbelt." And I’ve only found one where the unbelted, bashed-in boob actually had a good reason for not buckling up: He was standing on the roof of a friend’s car.

He was fine until the Chevy reached 20 mph. Then he lost his footing and did a nosedive onto the asphalt. His fractured skull netted him three weeks in intensive care, a month and a half convalescing, and more treatment and rehab in the future. Alcohol was suspected but not confirmed.

You have to wonder: What sort of “friend” drives around with someone on the roof?

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Last reviewed: 27 February 2014

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