Should I really wear my seat belt....

Have you ever been given a lift by someone in the back seat of their car, then when you put on the seat belt they ask ... " don't you trust me, I'm a safe driver?". Then you wonder whether to offend them and put it on or mumble something and remove it? That may seem like a crazy dilemna.

I have really been thinking a lot about seat belts and their use. In Kenya we have noted that there is legislation that enforces passengers to put on their seat belts. If one was to observe cars passing by you will notice that not everyone puts on their seat belts. Of those who do , its mainly the driver or the front passenger who will put it on.

We don't have recent local statistics but we can look at a country that has similar demographics- Nigeria. A very interesting study was done in Nigeria where they stood at a petrol station and recorded seat belt availability and compliance over 24 hours. This study showed very interestings results. I'll discuss 3 aspects about seat belts to highlight the importance.

They found that seat belts were available in 90 % of vehicles, yet the compliance rate was an average of 27.3%. Compliance varied with the time of the day. It was noted that most people put on seatbelts in the afternoon and evening times as compared to at night. This finding hinted at the subtle positive effect of enforcement on road safety behavoirs because the police officers we seen at the road side more in the afternoon and evenings for surveillance and it was possible that the road users were more familiar with this routine and would hence take precaution. This is also true here in Kenya because most people in public vehicles would quickly put on or pretend to put on their seat belts when they reach a road block

It was sad to note that only 3% of passengers seat in the back( rear compartment) wore seat belts. This was attributed to the fact that most cars carried 4 passengers in the rear compartment row of seats instead of 3 making it incovenient for the passengers to wear their seat belts. Its also due to the falacy of presumed safety when seated at the back and the assumption that the seat belt law was only enforced for drivers and front row passengers only.

This is disappointing because being seated at back without a seatbelt posses a lot of risk for the front row passengers because they become like a missile like shown in the picture below. The rear compartment passenger was definately injured and could have injured the person infront by hitting them on the neck( possibly even break their neck) on their way out. Even if for no other reason, saving your neck, ensure that the person you give a lift in the back wears their seat belts. The other advantage is that a seat belt protects the passengers. In the front compartment by upto 50% and the rear 75 %.

Lastly, people actually knew about the importance of seat belts , how they enhance safety, seat belt regulation and the penalty for non compliance with seat belt usage. Several researches have been done to proove it. Even here in Africa. The main issue is compliance and change in behaviour. Today i was fortunate to discuss with a new friend called Patrick. Patrick told me that the only way to change how Kenyan's do things is to start at the family level. Now when I think about it, we can only start at the family level to change our road safety behaviour. If we wait for the police it will be too late for many. You have control in your car. Lets wear seat belts, lets start with people around us and let get talking about this. Only its not about lack of knowledge but our attitude. Its not too late.

Source of Statistics and data : Ann Med Health Sci Res. 2013 Jul-Sep; 3(3): 427–432.

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