RISK. It’s an interesting word that we hear most days. It has numerous meanings, but it can generally be defined as a situation involving exposure to danger. There exists a mundane, everyday activity that most of us are exposed to which carries a fairly high degree of risk – driving.
In the four years that I have been investigating fatal road traffic collisions, I can readily recall a number of incidents where occupants of vehicles have failed to take a few seconds to fasten their seatbelts. How long does it take, once you’re sat in a car, to pull the seatbelt down and fasten it – seconds? I often wonder if people realise their mistake of not wearing a seatbelt having crashed and now making an intimate acquaintance with the windscreen. You’ll have to excuse my flippancy but I don’t comprehend why you would take the risk of being unrestrained during a collision. After all you can be the best driver in the world, but trust me when I say there are plenty of bad drivers out there.
To allow people to appreciate the forces involved in a collision, let me give you some perspective. How many (g)’s do you think we experience when skidding a car to a stop?…0.7g. How many (g)’s do you think we experience when riding ‘Nemesis’ roller coaster?…4.2g’s. Now think about the forces being applied to your body on ‘Nemesis’ and think how many (g)’s you experience when colliding with a tree? 32g, that’s 8 times as much g-force. The force involved is quite staggering.
You’re involved in a crash, the noise alone is deafening. The vehicle is brought to an abrupt stop, but being unrestrained, you continue your journey. You separate from your seat and are projected forwards towards the steering wheel. Your head and torso travel over the steering wheel and your face punches through the windscreen. You clear the car and tumble through the air, and you know there’s only one way down. At what point do they realise their mistake? That question again.
Part of my job is to determine if the seatbelt was in use at the time of a collision. There is a wealth of evidence available to me which assists with this determination. Some of that evidence consists of examining the windscreen in order to identify body tissue. I’m not being gory for the sake of it. I am trying to label a point. The point being; wearing a seatbelt greatly reduces the injury potential when involved in a collision. It takes seconds to fasten your seatbelt. Driving is probably the most high risk activity that we undertake, and yet people are prepared to take a chance. I personally would not leave it to chance. I’d rather take steps to try and avoid being ejected from a vehicle. It doesn’t matter what sort of image you try and present, by not wearing a seatbelt as the end result won’t be a pretty one.
Belt up or lose out!
PC James Thorne
Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Roads Policing Unit