Something amazing has taken place recently. My father now wears a seat belt on a consistent basis. Not significant? Well it is when you consider that he has driven for more than forty years without a major accident or injury; never wearing a seat belt. He is living proof that you can “teach an old dog new tricks.”
It’s a fact that about eighty percent of all American drivers do not wear seat belts regularly. It’s also a fact that nearly 50,000 fatalities occur annually on our nation’s streets and highways. There are another 180,000 people who annually incur brain damage in auto accidents while another 150,000 receive facial damage. So you want to be a chauffeur and work in day, day out behind the wheel on these same streets and highways? The typical person will be in one major accident during a lifetime. Driving on average of 36,000 miles per year, which is about three-times the national average, chauffeurs re likely to have three major accidents. Safe driver or not, there’s always the other guy.
So what can you do about improving your odds? Stay out of cars the rest of your life? Join the Merchant Marines? How about wearing your seat belts? If most states have their way, it will soon be mandatory. New York already has a seat belt law in effect. New Jersey and Illinois are close behind, and nearly every state legislature will be voting on some sort of seat belt law before the year is out.
You say you don’t like seat belts? There goes another freedom? Soon the government will tell us when to go to bed at night and when to brush our teeth? Well how about this fact: In Canada’s province of Ontario, where seat belt usage is mandatory, a total of 248,004 accidents, in which drivers were buckled up, were reported in ’83. Nearly eight-six percent of those accidents had no injury at all. Less than one percent involved a major injury and only one-hundred and twenty-nine had fatalities. I wear my seat belt and these figures made a believer of my father.
Shouldn’t limousine operators as a group, accept the serious responsibility connected with the safety of their chauffeurs? Shouldn’t you be supporting the new efforts being made in individual states to make seat belt usage compulsory? Operators complain of high insurance rates. Wouldn’t fewer fatalities and major injuries lower everyone’s insurance premiums? The Department of Transportation has set September 1, ’86 as the date when a majority of states must adopt a seat belt law or else the ’87 model cars must come equipped with the expensive and controversial air bags. I trust the effectiveness of my seat belt. Could I be certain my air bag would activate to save me in an accident? I, personally, am not yet sold on air bags.
Chauffeurs should appreciate the efforts being made to ensure that their working environment is a safer one. Seat belts are just one means of added protection. The new eye-level, high-visibility, center-mounted rear brake light, mandatory on ’86 model cars, is but another.
Twenty-nine other countries now have mandatory seat belt laws. To quote my converted father, “It’s about time for us to see the wisdom of doing the same, not so much for statistics alone, but for each individual’s safety and ultimate freedom to live a full life.”