Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Belt Up 1984 - Part 3

July 1984 saw the publication of the first edition of "Thinks!", the Channel Island Mensa Magazine.

The editor Ken Webb, decided to mark the launch with a topical debate - on seat belts. He was annoyed that the JEP motoring correspondent seemed to be lobbying for seat belts rather than having an informed debate about the advantages and disadvantages, and giving equal time to protestors.

In the second edition, two people replied. The second was Andrew Christensen whose letter is reprinted below.

In Jersey, the most recent change to legislation was the wearing of seat-belts in the back of cars. States members agreed to the new law in March 2008, and this brought the island in line with the rest of Europe.

Philip Blake, from the Road Safety Panel, commenting on the law said: "In Jersey, on average, every three years at least one person has been killed in the rear of a vehicle who wasn't wearing a seatbelt. Many others who didn't wear a seat belt have been seriously injured. Making everyone wear a seat belt will reduce the risk of serious injury for those involved in crashes."

While the States agreed to the change in law in March 2008, it didn't actually get to the Statute books until April 2009, when it was passed by a Ministerial Order by Constable Michael Jackson. I have been unable to ascertain why there was a such a long delay. It seems that the previous Minister for Transport, Deputy Guy de Faye, who lost his seat in the November 2008 Elections, may have been dragging his heels on bringing the changes forward.

A few facts on seat belts and their history, which begins in the United States of America:

The first seat belts were not installed in cars by auto manufacturers. Early automobiles did not go particularly fast, and there were relatively few cars on the road. As the number of motor vehicles increased, so did the amount of danger. In the 1930s, a number of physicians, seeing the results of traffic accidents, lobbied car makers to create some sort of restraining device to keep people from being thrown from a car in an accident. Several doctors actually designed their own lap belts and installed them in their autos. It was not until the 1950s that seat belts began to appear with some regularity. In 1954 the Sports Car Club of America began to require drivers to wear lap belts as they raced. Soon afterward such groups as the National Safety Council (NSC), American College of Surgeons, and International Association of Chiefs of Police issued their own recommendations for the manufacture and installation of seat belts. The Swedish auto manufacturer Volvo began marketing lap belt in 1956; that same year both Ford and Chrysler decided to offer lap belts as well. Seat belts were not required by law, though, in the United States until 1968.

And now the Mensa article:

Contributed by Andrew Christensen

Dear Ken,

The intention of this letter is to take you to task over your ' defence. of the individual's right to choose to wear a seat belt. Yes, I am all for the rights of the individual and for freedom of choice. Notwithstanding that, certain facts speak for themselves, and in the case of the wearing of seat belts these facts speak loudly. Straight forward - the possibility of suffering, serious injuries or even death while wearing seat belts during driving is greatly reduced. It has taken legislation with the threat of penalties to considerably increase the percentage of car users who use seat belts. The real threat of death or serious injury, even reinforced by dramatic advertising was simply not enough.

In a recent House of Commons reply, Mrs. Lynda Chalker, Minister of State for Transport, stated that at present 95% of front seat occupants are wearing seat belts, compared with under 40% prior to legislation being introduced. In the first twelve months of compulsory wearing, there has been a reduction of over 7,000 fatal and serious front seat casualties compared with the previous twelve months.

At the same time, road traffic increased by slightly over 4%.

One final sobering thought is that the present estimated cost to the taxpayer of ONE fatal traffic (motorway) accident is £257,000. Though I would think the cost of a fatal accident on Victoria Avenue is slightly less, the cost in human terms is just the same.

If measures can be taken which do positively reduce the human and financial expense of a road accident, then those measures should be welcomed and not frustrated.

Anyway, I shall wish you many more miles of, hopefully, accident free driving.

With best wishes,

Andrew Christensen.


1 comment:

alane said...

I've never heard the argument for seat belts put better. Numbers don't lie.