Seat belt legislation

Seat belt legislation

Seat belt legislation is a law or laws put in place to enforce or require, the fitting of seat belts to motor vehicles, or the wearing of seat belts by motor vehicle occupants. Most western countries have some seat belt legislation.Fact|date=March 2008.The legal requirement to fit seat belts began in Victoria and South Australia in 1964, with the compulsory fitting of seat belt anchorages at front outboard positions in new cars.cite web
title=A Potted Seat Belt History
publisher=Drivers Technology
] In 1965 cars built in Europe were required to be fitted with front seat belts.cite web
title=Seat Belts: History
] This was followed in 1967, by the requirement in the UK to fit 3-point belts in the front outboard positions, and by the requirement in South Australia to fit belts (2 or 3-point) to the front outboard positions, in all new passenger cars sold.

Predicted effects

The move towards seat belt wearing legislation started in Australia in the late 1960s, although it was echoed elsewhere.

Experiments using both crash test dummies and actual human cadavers also indicated that wearing seat belts should lead to reduced risk of death and injury in certain types of car crash.

As a result of such predictions the use of seat belts by vehicle occupants was made compulsory in Victoria, Australia in 1970, followed by the rest of Australia and some other countries during the 1970s and 1980s.

Successive UK Governments proposed, but failed to deliver, seat belt wearing legislation throughout the 1970s [cite web
title=RoSPA History - How Belting Up Became Law
] . In one such attempt in 1979 similar claims for potential lives and injuries saved were advanced. William Rodgers, then Secretary of State for Transport in the Callaghan Labour Government (1976–1979), stated that: [cite web
title=RoSPA History - How Belting Up Became Law
publisher=john adams
] .

Professor John Adams of University College London was sceptical of such claims and set out to analyse the effect of seat belt laws as then in force and assess how well they matched predictions. His findings were published in 1982 and can be found in the Society of Automotive Engineers transactions of that year [cite paper
author=John Adams
title=The Efficacy of Seat Belt Legislation
publisher=The Society of Automotive Engineers
] . His conclusion was that in the eighteen countries surveyed, accounting for approximately 80% of the world's motoring, those countries with seat belt laws had fared no better, and in some cases (e.g. Sweden, Ireland and New Zealand) significantly "worse" than those without.

In summarising the paradox, Adams agreed that :

In order to explain the disparity between the agreed improvement in a crash and the observed results, Adams advanced the hypothesis that "Protecting car occupants from the consequences of bad driving encourages bad driving".

He has suggested that a number of mechanisms are in play:
* Better protected drivers take less care (risk compensation or risk homeostasis).
* Case-control studies based on voluntary use of safety aids can attribute to the aid benefits that actually come from the risk-averse nature of those likely to use them voluntarily (confounding), particularly early adopters.
* Fatality rates are subject to considerable stochastic noise and comparison of single years or short periods can be misleading.

Studies and experiments have been carried out to examine the risk compensation theory. In one experiment subjects were asked to drive go-karts around a track under various conditions. It was found that subjects who started driving belted did not drive any slower when subsequently unbelted, but those who started driving unbelted did drive consistently faster when subsequently belted. [ An experimental test of risk compensation: between-subject versus within-subject analyses] Streff FM and Geller ES, Accident Analysis and Prevention, Aug;20(4):277-87. 1988 ] A study of habitual non-seatbelt wearers driving in freeway conditions found evidence that they had adapted to seatbelt use by adopting higher driving speeds and closer following distances [ Janssen, W. Seat belt wearing and driving behaviour: An instrumented-vehicle study] . Accident Analysis and Prevention.1994 Apr; Vol 26(2): 249-2] In another study, taxi drivers who were habitual non-wearers were timed over a route with passengers who did, and others who did not, insist on the driver wearing a belt. They were observed to complete the route faster when belted. [ [ Wilde, "Target Risk"] ]

In response the UK's Department of Transport commissioned a study on the effects of seat belt laws in Sweden, West Germany, Denmark, Spain, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway. This study, known as "the Isles report" after its author, and which used the United Kingdom and Italy as controls for no-law countries, compared casualty trends for both those inside and outside cars between law and no-law states. The report predicted that, based on the experiences of the eight countries studied, a UK seat belt law would be followed by a 2.3% increase in fatalities among car occupants [] Seat belt savings: implications of European statistics. Isles JE, STG Division, Department of Transport, UK. Dated but not published April 1981. "The Isles Report"] cite book
author=Davis, R
title=Death on the Streets: Cars and the Mythology of Road Safety
publisher=Leading Edge Books
id=ISBN 0-948135-46-8
] .

Measured effects

Some reports from Australia indicated that the laws had indeed been effective: a rising trend in fatalities pre-1970 had been arrested and reversed, and this was attributed to the effect of seat belt legislation. This attribution did not meet with universal acceptance: introduction of early seat belt laws coincided with the world oil crisis, and other national road safety initiatives. The United Kingdom experienced a reduction in casualties at the same time [ [ Department for Transport] , Transport Statistics.] (British seat belt legislation was not introduced until a decade later), which also coincided with the acclaimed Clunk Click Every Trip campaign to encourage voluntary wearing of seat belts. Claims of the number of lives saved, based on the extrapolation of trends pre-law, could not therefore be reliably associated solely with seat belt compulsion, because so many other factors were also involvedcite book
author=John Adams
id=ISBN 1-85728-068-7
] .

Side-effects of seat belts

Over the years numerous cases were documented of various fatalities and injuries caused by wearing seat-belts. Potentially lethal injuries such as crushed sternum and paralyzing neck injuries are common in high-speed collisions. Chest injury may cause cardiac arrest, lung bruises are amongst the most common causes of death by seat-belts especially for people of weak heart such as the elderly who can also suffer a heart attack and not be able to free from the seatbelt in order to get to help. In neck injury cases, the immense pressure from a high-speed impact can cause a seat-belt wearer's head to accelerate forward suddenly while the body is restrained, potentially causing paralyzing injuries. [ [ injuries caused by seatbelt - Trauma, Vol. 7, No. 4, 211-215 (2005)] , seatbelt injuries.]

Non-car road users

From the very beginning in Australia [Evaluation of Automobile Safety Regulations: The case of Compulsory Seat Belt Legislation in Australia. by J.A.C. Coneybeare, Policy Sciences 12:27-39, 1980] , and subsequently New Zealand [Compulsory Seat Belt Use: Further Inferences, by P. Hurst Accident Analysis and Prevention., Vol 11: 27-33, 1979] , there had been indications that seat belt laws might produce increases in deaths and injury among those outside cars such as motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians [Source: Department for Transport, Road Accidents Great Britain] . Isles found that in Europe the predominant effect of seat belt legislation was of increased numbers of injuries to non-car users. He predicted that in the UK, deaths to other road users would rise by approximately 150 per year in the event of compulsory seat belt wearing legislation. In terms of injuries to other road users the prediction was for an 11% increase in pedestrian injuries, with injuries to other road users climbing by 12 to 13% (numerically 7,000 and 36,000 respectively).

The British Law

The Isles report was written by a civil servant in the Department of Transport. It did not back the pre-existing and still current position of Government, and it was never published. It is known mainly because it was leaked to "The Spectator" magazine some time after the law was passed.

The law mandating the compulsory wearing of seat belts for front seat occupiers came into force on January 31, 1983 in the UK [cite web
title=20 facts for the 20th anniversary of front seat belt wearing
publisher=UK Department for Transport
] . Evidential breath testing was introduced at the same time.

There was a reduction in driver fatalities and an increase in fatalities of rear passengers (not covered by the law) [Durbin J, Harvey A: "The effects of seat belt legislation on road casualties in Great Britain", DtP, October 1985] . A subsequent study of 19,000 cyclist and 72,000 pedestrian casualties seen at the time suggests that seat belt wearing drivers were 11-13% more likely to injure pedestrians and 7-8% more likely to injure cyclists [Source:Methodological Issues in Testing the Hypothesis of Risk Compensation by Brian Dulisse, Accident Analysis and Prevention Vol. 25 (5): 285-292, 1997] . In January 1986 an editorial in "The Lancet" noted the shortfall in predicted life-saving and "the unexplained and worrying increase in deaths of other road users" [Lancet, 11 January 1986, p75] . Shortly after this, legal compulsion was extended indefinitely.

Rodgers claimed in 1978, prior to his unsuccessful attempt to introduce seat belt compulsion, that "the best evidence" indicated a likely saving of a thousand lives and ten thousand injuries per year. On January 302003, 20 years after the introduction of compulsory front seat belt wearing, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) published their "Seat Belts Factsheet" [cite web
publisher=UK Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety
] which states:

Adams concludes that there is no evidence of the seat belt law having reduced overall fatality numbers, and that there is evidence of fatalities having migrated from drivers to vulnerable road users. Although the Government argued at the time that the law had saved lives, it has subsequently attributed almost all the benefit for the small reduction in overall driver fatalities to the introduction of evidential breath testing.

According to the Durbin-Harvey report, commissioned by the Department of Transport following passage of the law, an analysis of fatality figures before and after the law shows:
* a clear increase in pedestrian, cyclist and rear-passenger fatalities in collisions involving passenger cars
* no such increase in casualties in collisions involving buses and goods vehicles, which were exempt from the law
* a reduction in the number of drivers found to be drunk at the scene of collisions
* a reduction in overall fatalities between the hours of 10pm and 4am (peak hours for drink-driving offences)
* no reduction in overall fatality rates outside these hours. [Durbin-Harvey report, reported in Davis, "Death on the Streets: Cars and the mythology of road safety"]

Seat belt use is a binary: the belt is either worn or not. Belt laws, which tend to lead to substantial changes in wearing rates over very short periods, would, if the predictions of up to 50% reductions in fatalities are correct, be expected to demonstrate large scale changes in fatality figures. No such changes have been observed. Whether seat belts reduce fatalities, it is inescapably true that any reductions fall well below the predicted levels, a fact widely interpreted as supporting risk compensation theory.

Support for seat belt legislation

Other authorities claim that seat belt legislation "has" reduced the number of casualties in road accidents. For example, this [ statistical analysis] by the NHTSA claimed that seat belts save over 10,000 lives every year in the US. The FARS further writes: [] :"Research on the effectiveness of child safety seats has found them to reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants (less than 1 year old) and by 54 percent for toddlers (1-4 years old) in passenger cars. [...] Among passenger vehicle occupants over 4 years old, safety belts saved an estimated 11,889 lives in 2000."

In Victoria, Australia the use of seat belts became compulsory in 1970. By 1974 decreases of 37% in deaths and 41% in injuries, including a decrease of 27% in spinal injuries, were observed, compared with extrapolations based on pre-law trends. The Victorian legislation coincided with the oil-crises of the early 1970s, a time when traffic injuries and deaths fell in most industrialised countries. Adams' analysis shows Victoria's injury trends as being above the average for all industrialised countries.

Current position

United States

[] )
Color key:legend|#ff6600|Primary offense] New York State passed the first seat belt law in the US in 1984 under the leadership of John D. States, an orthopedic surgeon who dedicated his career to improving automotive safety [Click it or ticket] . In the USA, seatbelt legislation varies by state. Depending on which state you are in, not wearing a seatbelt is either a primary offense or a secondary offense, with the exception of New Hampshire, which does not have a law requiring people over age 18 to wear a seat belt. Primary offense meaning a police officer can pull you over for the seatbelt law violation alone, and secondary offense meaning you can only be punished for the seatbelt law violation if you're already pulled over for another reason. As of January 2007, 25 states and the District of Columbia have primary seatbelt laws, 24 have secondary seatbelt laws, and one state (New Hampshire) has no laws. [ [ NTSB - Most Wanted ] ]

Many US opponents also object on the grounds that seat belt laws infringe on their civil liberties. They believe not wearing seat belts is a victimless crime as the only person harmed is the one making that decision for himself about his/her own life. They also believe that since deaths are caused by seatbelts in some kinds of accidents that the government has no right to legislate an activity (buckling up) that may cause a persons death in the hopes it will maybe save others. Opponents frequently quote Benjamin Franklin who said "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety".

In 2004, after being ticketed for not wearing his seatbelt, Allan Cronshaw has challenged the New York state seatbelt law on the grounds that the law does not allow for a religious exemption. Allan has laid claim to being a reincarnated Ebionite and "James the brother of Jesus" from the Bible.

In 2007, the Governor of New Jersey, Jon Corzine, was seriously injured while failing to wear a seat belt (in violation of New Jersey state law) while a passenger in his official SUV. He has subsequently appeared in a DOT commercial advocating wearing seat belts. His vehicle was travelling 91 miles per hour (146 km/h) in a 65 mph (105 km/h) zone on the Garden State Parkway with its emergency lights flashing at the time of the accident while being driven by a state trooper. [ [,2933,266603,00.html Foxnews - Police: Corzine's SUV Was Going Roughly 91 MPH Before Crash] ]

Developing countries

In many developing countries, however, pedestrians, cyclists, rickshaw operators and moped users represent the majority of road users. Some believe such countries face a serious dilemma about importing "Western", "car-centered", models of "road safety" such as compulsory seat belt legislation. [ [ Road safety in less-motorized environments: future concerns] Dinesh Mohan, International Journal of Epidemiology, Vol 31:527-532 2002] [ [ Seatbelt Legislation: Additional Information] Shane Foran, British Medical Journal Rapid Responses, 9th January 2001] In the Indian state of Gujarat, seatbelts have been made compulsory in all 6 major cities. e.g. Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar.

Dilution of risk compensation effect

There is very little literature considering how risk compensation effects, subjective as they must be, change over time. Although there is good evidence that habitually unbelted drivers will take more risks when belted, and that habitually belted drivers will be more cautious when unbelted , by the nature of laws, new drivers will be habituated from the outset. An interesting footnote to the debate is analysis by Adams of the relationship between accident records and car ownership, a relationship known as Smeed's law ( [] ). It appears that this empirical rule relating car casualties to the level of car ownership has continued to hold across several decades of safety interventions, including seat belt laws. It may beFact|date=June 2007 that modern drivers, habituated from the outset to seat belt use, are also habituated from the outside to greater expectations of car performance: faster cornering, faster acceleration, later braking. Alternatively it may be that improvements are due to the increasing profile of safety interventions as car ownership increases, whatever the country, as road safety professionals prefer.

Seat belt legislation around the world

This section gives an overview of the years in which seat belt legislation was first introduced in various countries around the world. This includes both regional and national legislation.

♣ - definitely introduced by this date, and possibly earlier

ee also

*Seat belt
*Car accident
*Click It or Ticket
*Clunk Click Every Trip
*Road safety

External links

Links to sites/studies that endorse seat belts
* [ U.S. Department of Transportation: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration(NHTSA): Occupant Protection]
* [ PDF Seat Belt Wearing in Scotland: A Second Study of Compliance]
* [ UK Department for Transport: THINK! Road Safety]
* [ Prevention Institute: Seatbelts: Current Issues]
* [ Review of Economics and Statistics, Vol. 85, pp. 828-843, 2003]

Links to sites/studies skeptical/critical of seat belt legislation
* [ Seatbelt Laws Why You Should be worried]
* [ Stick It to Click It or Ticket (SITCIOT)]
* [ The Coalition for Seatbelt Choice]
* [ Do Seat Belt Laws Work?]
* [ Seat Belt Laws: A Clumsy Perspective by Professor John Adams pdf-format]
* [ Link to a paper from the Lancet pdf-format]
* [ Review of Seatbelt Effectiveness]
* [ Link to article on the Hawaii Seatbelt law]
* [ The Click-it Tyranny] by Paul Jacob
* [ Religious Objection to Seat Belt Laws by Allan Cronshaw]

References and Further Reading

*cite book|author=John Adams|title=Risk|year=1995|publisher=Routledge|id=ISBN 1-85728-068-7 Authoritative reference on risk compensation theory.

*Wilde G.S. "Target Risk" PDE Publications, 1994

*The Isles report "Seat belt savings: Implications of European Statistics", UK DoT, 1981, Sourced from "Death on the Streets, Cars and the Mythology of Road Safety" by Robert Davis, Leading Edge Press, North Yorkshire UK, 1992 and "Report questions whether seat belts save lives" by M. Hamer, New Scientist, 7 February 1985 p7

*"Evaluation of Automobile Safety Regulations: The case of Compulsory Seat Belt Legislation in Australia". by J.A.C. Coneybeare, Policy Sciences 12:27-39, 1980

* "Compulsory Seat Belt Use: Further Inferences", by P. Hurst Accident Analysis and Prevention., Vol 11: 27-33, 1979

* Wilde G.S. "Risk Homeostasis and Traffic Accidents Propositions, Deductions and Discussion of Dissension in Recent Reactions", Ergonomics 1988 Vol, 31, 4:439

*"Methodological Issues in Testing the Hypothesis of Risk Compensation" by Brian Dulisse, Accident Analysis and Prevention Vol. 25 (5): 285-292, 1997

*RS 255 "The initial impact of seat belt legislation in Ireland" by R. Hearne, An Foras Forbatha, Dublin, 1981

*"The efficacy of seat belt legislation: A comparative study of road accident fatality statistics from 18 countries", by J. Adams. Department of Geography University College, London 1981

*"Casualty Reductions, Whose Problem?" By F. West-Oram, Traffic Engineering and Control, September 1990

*"The Puzzle of Seat Belts Explained", Press Release of the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society, April 1999

*"Reconsidering the effects of seat belt Laws and Their Enforcement Status" by T.S. Dee Accident Analysis and Prevention., Vol 30(1): 1-10, 1998


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