I was going through a popular Nigerian online public forum recently and came across a story. A lady claimed she was driving when an official of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) stopped her and reprimanded her because her friend seated on the front seat wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. This is good, knowing how essential seatbelts are to safety. Sadly he spoilt his good works by going ahead to feed them with wrong information; that if the front seat passenger didn’t want to wear his seatbelt, he should go to the backseats where he is permitted to seat without having to wear his seatbelts.
From the responses of other forum users, it became abundantly clear that just like the traffic officer, many people ignorantly assume seatbelts are meant only for front seat occupants in a car. How erroneous. Seatbelts are fixed in every car, as mandated by international standards to keep occupants of a car strapped in to their seats in the event of a sudden deceleration or collision or roll-over. The modern seatbelt also comes with a pretensioner. This feature senses a rapid deceleration, crash or roll-over and within split seconds, retracts the seatbelts, holding the wearer tighter in the seat to help them avoid knocking themselves around or against dangerous surfaces in the car and more importantly too, to nestle them closer to the headrests of the car to help them avoid whiplash while also holding them inplace from getting a direct hit from the airbags if it deploys. Whiplash is the force that snaps against the neck of an occupant of a car when the G forces arising from the rapid deceleration or rear impact causes the occupant’s necks to forcefully bend upwards and forward with a terrific force that can snap the neck or cause irreparable damages to the spinal cord.
the flexible part of a whip or something resembling it.
injury caused by a severe jerk to the head, typically in a car accident.
“suffering from whiplash, he spent weeks with his neck in a collar”
jerk or jolt (someone or something) suddenly, typically so as to cause injury.
“the force of impact had whiplashed the man’s head”
move suddenly and forcefully, like a whip being cracked.
There are several types of seatbelts but for this write-up, we are referring to the 3-point type that is universally used in most cars produced nowadays. Several studies have proven the efficacy of the seatbelts in preventing deaths and reducing the severity of crash injuries so their importance cannot be questioned. I remember several years ago, a camera mounted on a police car in America captured the moment a policeman stopped a car, did the routine traffic stop stuff then advised the rear seat occupants to also wear their seatbelts. He was still talking to them when an out-of-control car side-swiped his patrol car and slammed into the rear of the stopped car. Luckily, no one was injured or killed in the crash. The occupants came out in full praises of the officer for advising them in the nick of time as none of them suffered whiplash that would have been the case had they not been wearing their belts during the crash.
This is just one out of several cases, even in examples whereby a car rolls over, it has been proven time and time again that it is the seatbelt that can protect an occupant from being thrown out of the rolling car. Earlier this year, Nigeria lost a serving Federal Minister, his wife and son who died in a road crash because they were all not wearing their seatbelts while the driver wearing his seatbelt survived. One very vital point to note is that all car makers provide a seatbelt for all locations in a car where a passenger is designed to seat. So if the car is designed to carry 4 passengers, there will be 4 seatbelts. For a 7 passenger car, there also will be 7 seatbelts. But when the car is overloaded with passengers, then the number of passengers will be more than the number of seatbelts. And this also poses a great danger.
Some years ago, a human trafficker carrying 25 illegal immigrants into the USA lost control of the car and the car rolled over killing all but the driver who was wearing his seatbelt but others were thrown out of the rolling car which mangled many of the victims. In some countries, it is mandatory that all passengers in a car wear their seatbelts while in others it is mandatory for only the occupants of the front seats. Here in Nigeria, in the very recent years (January, 2003), the body saddled with the responsibility of promoting and ensuring safety on our roads, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) started enforcing the use of seatbelts for front seat occupants. In a recent interaction with some senior editors of motoring newspapers and motoring desks of major newspapers, the Corps Marshal of the FRSC, Boboye Oyeyemi revealed that the Corps would soon start the enforcement for rear seat occupants to also wear their seatbelts which ought to have started since January, 2015.
Carsinyankee.com therefore advices you not to wait for the said enforcement before you start wearing your seatbelts irrespective of your seating position in any car. For me, after watching that police incident in America, once I get into any car, the first thing I do is to wear my seatbelt, no stories. For the avoidance of doubt, it is mandatory for all occupants of a car to always wear their seatbelts and it is an offence not to. Ignorance is not an excuse in this regard.
Sadly it seems like many of our traffic and law enforcers are not well schooled in the very job they are meant to be doing so end up either prosecuting wrongly or feeding the masses with wrong information. It is in your best interest not to wait for enforcement before you strap on your seatbelts as it will save your lives, that of your loved ones and also reduce injuries by a very wide margin in the event of a rapid deceleration or worse, a crash.
Let’s always do the right thing and also pass on the message to all and sundry. Road safety is collective responsibility, let’s save lives and properties. At Carsinyankee.com, we insist that #DriversLifeMatter