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SeatbeltWe’ve all heard the saying, “Only time will tell.” What time is telling, in this case, is the story of lives saved by seat belts. According to law enforcement records, only about 18 percent of Iowans used seat belts in August 1985. In July 1986, Iowa’s primary seat belt law was enacted. By September 1986, seat belt usage was up to 46 percent. When seat belt usage was measured in 1997, nearly 75 percent of drivers in Iowa were buckling up, with a small but steady increase in practically each year since. By 2014, seat belt usage was measured to be nearly 93 percent, one of the highest compliance rates in the nation.

Zero_SeatbeltGraphic-02Although 93 percent compliance is good, it isn’t enough. Statistics show of the 320 who died on Iowa highways last year, nearly 50 percent were unbelted. That’s 160 people who had a fighting chance to survive a crash, had they been wearing a seat belt. We need your help to get to those people who don’t regularly buckle up. Here are some ways to go about having a conversation with a loved one in your life who doesn’t believe seat belts save lives.

Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts. How do we know an increase in seat belt use will save lives? For starters, we can look at the fatality rate versus seat belt use. Year-to-year you will see some ups and down in the fatality rate, but the general trend is fewer deaths occur as the seat belt compliance rate increases.


Requiring seat belt use is a matter of public safety. Asking you to put on a seat belt is no more an infringement on your rights than being required to turn on your headlights or use turn signals or stop at stop signs. Court cases around the country have supported this.

Even though it is a law, being “forced” to wear a seat belt still rubs some people the wrong way. To those people, we would ask “What’s holding you back?”

But laws and statistics still don’t impress some die-hard folks who don’t believe seat belts make a difference. Maybe a little science will convince them.

In a 2009 article on, medical experts note that seat belts save lives in five basic ways. In a crash, seat belts:

  1. Keep you inside your vehicle. Studies show you are four times more likely to be killed if you are ejected from a vehicle in a crash.
  2. Wrap you up at the strongest parts of your body. Your hips and shoulders are where your belt should hit you for a good reason, they are the strongest parts of your body.
  3. Spread out force from the crash. Properly adjusted lap and shoulder belts spread out the force, instead of concentrating it in one area. Should belts hold your body back, keeping your head and upper body away from the hard surfaces like the dashboard and steering wheel.
  4. Help slow down your body movement. A quick change in speed is the cause of many injuries.
  5. Protect your brain and spinal cord. By design, this safety feature minimizes injury to the head and spinal cord due to a crash impact.

For those who are still not convinced, maybe this first-hand story from a few weeks ago in Cincinnati will help.

Or maybe this story from 2014 told by a family whose son lived in a crash where two other unbelted young people were ejected during the crash and died.

If you have someone in your life who refuses, for whatever reason, to wear a seat belt, you have one final plea. Do it to save those travelling with you. Maybe that person doesn’t realize that in a crash, an unbelted person can become a projectile that will likely cause death or serious injury for others in the vehicle.

Whatever your tactic - statistics, science, or tugging at heart strings - convincing every person in your vehicle to buckle up comes down to one thing, saving lives. Help be a part of the quest to get to zero fatalities on Iowa highways. 

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