Reader Question: Statistically Safer to Buckle up?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Dana asks: I thought it’s statistically worth it to buckle up. May I ask you to send me some legit studies that show yes or no to the efficacy of seat belts? I use DuckDuckGo but I don’t trust my judgement to sort out the info I have seen. I am a Libertarian and quite understand that we are living in the Brave New world now! Hell on earth is approaching. Thanks for your tremendous efforts!

My reply: It may well be – it probably is – statistically worth it to buckle up. What I mean by that is if you are in a wreck and wearing a seatbelt, it’s  probably more likely that the seatbelt will reduce pr even prevent an injury than cause one. However, there is also the chance that it will cause injury. It may be a smaller chance, but it’s a chance.

And if you’re not in a wreck at all, the risk is zero – whether you were buckled up or not.

My position is that decisions about risk (especially decisions about life and death risks) are properly the business of those whose lives are to be risked – no matter how small or great the risk – and not the business of busybodies in government.

This is a really important point. If it is accepted that the government has the right to force people to wear seatbelts because it is “safer” for them to wear them then the government implicitly has the same moral right to force people to exercise and eat a balanced diet and not partake of “risky” recreational activities such as skiing (and many others).

It is, in other words, to open the door to limitless government.

And look what we’ve got!

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Here is the thing. I’m 55 years old and have been a first responder for 30 of that. In that time I’ve seen a lot of car wrecks. Very few of them would a seat belt make a predictable difference, some will injure or kill you, some will save you.
    The odds against being in a serious car wreck are very low.
    Once you’ve heard the screams of a grown man as he’s being burned alive in a jammed seat belt (a crispy critter in our argot), or fished a few “fish bellies” (that white/grey look of the drowned is quite memorable) out who drowned in a water filled ditch while trapped in a seat belt, you will get a bit cynical about the value of illusory security and safety.
    FYI, they issue first responders and troops with seat belt cutters, because seat belt mechanisms jam and cause these things. To say nothing of the trauma of seat belts and air bags- may be better or worse than ejection, I don’t know and neither does anyone else. Dont feed me BS statistics from government studies- if you pay me to I can prove pretty much anything.
    It all misses the point. It’s my life. I get to choose how to live it- if I harm someone it’s a liability or criminal issue, but not before.

    • Ernie, it was a seatbelt I was paranoid about from day one that nearly caused me to be taken out by the Northern Pacific. Damn, those headlights are HUGE.

  2. Lincolns war opened the door to unlimited government. FDR and WW2 sealed it. I wonder if union soldiers realized they were fighting for the rights of their great great granddaughters to get raped by blacks and for their great great grandsons to be taught its ok to be transgender. What were they fighting for? I wish i could have killed some.

    • Hi Mark,

      The ranks of the Army of the Potomac were filled with recent immigrants, many from Ireland and Germany, who were essentially mercenaries for Lincoln (who commissioned several Germans as field officers). The Army of Northern Virginia (the name sounds off today, given the connotations of Northern Virginia today) was of course composed almost entirely of native-born American southerners and led by the same.

      It is a tragedy that the leaders of the Confederacy failed to follow the tactics used by their grandfathers so effectively to cut the cord between the colonies and the British Empire.

      • Hi Eric youre right. If Nathan Bedford Forrest had led the Confederate Army or had been in charge of tactics and strategy it would have been a far different outcome.

      • from wikipedia: Forrest fought by simple rules; he maintained that “war means fighting and fighting means killing” and the way to win was “to get there first with the most men”.[206] Union General William Tecumseh Sherman called him “that devil Forrest” in wartime communications with Ulysses S. Grant and considered him “the most remarkable man our civil war produced on either side”.[207][208][3]

        Forrest became well known for his early use of maneuver tactics as applied to a mobile horse cavalry deployment.[209] He grasped the doctrines of mobile warfare[210] that would eventually become prevalent in the 20th century. Paramount in his strategy was fast movement, even if it meant pushing his horses at a killing pace, to constantly harass the enemy during raids by disrupting their supply trains and communications with the destruction of railroad tracks and the cutting of telegraph lines, as he wheeled around his opponent’s flank

  3. Hi Dana,

    Years ago I read an article in the now defunct libertarian magazine, Liberty. It was much more radical than Reason (at the time I subscribed to both). Anyway, the article claimed that risk varied with speed. At lower speeds, I believe the cut-off was 35 MPH, wearing a seat belt exposed one to a GREATER risk of injury, especially neck injury, if in an accident, than remaining unbuckled. At highway speeds, remaining unbuckled was significantly more dangerous than buckling up.

    The article also exposed some tricks the safety nazis used to skew the data. For instance, pedestrians and cyclists were classified as unbuckled if injured in a crash with a car (I believe this has changed now). I’ve been trying for years to find this article as, in my memory at least, it was comprehensive, cited numerous studies and analyzed the data.

    Philosophically, I’m completely with Eric. I remember discussing this issue with parents and friends when I was in my early teens (one could still drive “naked” at the time). I said, “this will lead to massive government encroachment over our personal lives in the name of safety; laws designed to protect people from the actions of others are legitimate, laws designed to protect us from ourselves are not. If this is accepted, there is no logical limit to what the government may do in the name of our safety”. All of the parents and most of my friends thought I was nuts. I think history as shown otherwise.


    • Jeremy, when I got run over from behind by a sand frac truck I had just gotten back into the cab after doing a walk-around and had grabbed a bottle of lemon water to cool down when I was hit. I was really lucky to not be belted up since the back of the day cab hit my head so hard it still hurts and made me nearly blind and threw me into the windshield, that part being no big deal since I stopped my forward motion with my arms and my face. I was one mad mofo when the DPS got there 45 minutes later just as I was being hauled off tied on a stretcher. He asked me if I was wearing my seat belt and I went off on him. I said I had never worn a goddamn seatbelt in a truck(I feel differently in a small vehicle and wore a seat belt(before shoulder belts)religiously. He wrote me a ticket and I turned it into the company lawyer that got me off.

      He wrote down what I said(probably not verbatim since I doubt he could spell the words I used)on the ticket. Everybody at the company HQ’s got a good laugh out of it including the lawyer. There’s just so many DPS now I’m forced to wear the fuckers but I use the adjuster to keep them loose. A trucker has the need, often immediately, to lunge forward to see what might be happening trailer-wise in a turn and a damned seat belt will stop you. I can guarantee there’s been a lot of damage caused by seat belts in a truck.

      OTOH, I grew up with lots of roads with high speed curves and knew several people my age to get thrown out and smashed with a car rolling over them. Often they were good friends. I watched so many of my racing heroes get killed by being thrown out it just seemed like a no-brainer to wear a belt but not those damned chest belts which have caused me injury. But mandating such is one of those things that makes me mad just thinking about it.


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