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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 17:17 
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I find myself agreeing with Paul_1966 in that there is far too much government intervention; the so-called nanny state.

But that aside, I may go as far as to say seat belts are unnecessary since the introduction of the air bag - aren't they? Is there something a belt does that an air bag doesn't do just as well or better?

Another point is that on many modern cars, my works Octavia for one, you can't drive without putting your belt on otherwise you have to tolerate a very annoying repeated beep after about 30 seconds, so regardless of legislation I have to wear one.

I wonder if the seat belt law went down the same route as the speed camera issue - where's the actual proof that the cure isn't worse than the malady before it's made law?

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 17:23 
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This graph, prepared from DfT data, shows that the biggest ever risk transfer from car occupants to cyclists and pedestrians was coincident with the introduction of the seat belt law in 1983:

Image

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 17:32 
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Okay, this is interesting. Do we know how many KSI are caused by unrestrained rear seat passengers?

ie. collision occurs - driver, front seat passenger restrained and would have been uninjured if rear seat passenger restrained?

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 18:20 
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- Accidents in which a vehicle is "T-boned" by another and the side impact crushes the driver or passenger because he is restrained by the belt

- Rear-end collisions in which the impact itself does not cause injury, but the lurch forward by the person afterward followed by the immediate restraint by a belt results in whiplash injuries

- Certain rollover accidents in which being restrained by the shoulder part of the belt results in the upper portion of the head/body being crushed

- Internal injuries such as punctured lungs and ruptured intestines caused by belt restraint in what would otherwise be quite minor collisions


I doubt that any crush injuries are caused BECAUSE someone is wearing a seat belt. If the intrusion is great enough for crushing to occur with a belt I suspect that some kind of serious injury is inevitable, with or without a belt.

Any crash that was hard enough to cause whiplash injuries would almost certainly have involved the occupants hitting the windscreen or steering wheel if they had not been restrained, probably with even worse injuries.

In a rollover you are certainly better off being restrained than bouncing aound the inside of the car. That's why racing/rally cars have five point belts.

Many modern cars are fitted with seat belt pre-tensioners that remove any slack during the initial stage of the crash and force limiters that release the belt more gradually to help minimise internal injuries.

Most of the people I have spoken to who think that seat belts are not important have no understanding of the forces involved in a crash. They think it's going to be like braking hard. Stopping from even as slow as 30mph in the length of the bonnet is very different...


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 18:39 
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A seatbelt saved my life, I can see no benefit to be derived from not wearing one.

You can quote as many unique accidents in which belts did more harm than good as you like, but unless they outnumber the ones where belts do provide benefit, or you have some psychic power to tell what sort of accident you're going to be having today, then the benefits quite clearly outweigh the risks.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 19:10 
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Paul_1966 wrote:
Shouldn't smoking be outlawed completely?


yes.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 19:38 
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Philosophically, I would suggest that whether or not you want to wear a FRONT seatbelt should be entirely up to you - you'll be the one potentially taking a one way trip through a windscreen.

If you fail to wear your REAR seatbelt it's someone else's life you're risking.

The "cost to family / society" argument is a rather dangerous road to go down - no-one NEEDS to play rugby / climb mountains / skateboard etc. etc. etc., so on that argument we should actively discourage all of those activities on the grounds that less risky means of keeping fit are available... That choice (and its possible ramifications for friends, family etc.) are surely a matter for the individual and their conscience.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 19:42 
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General Anestetic (sp?) has a risk of death, but I would rather take that risk to undergo potentially life saving surgery, than die from any illness I may have.
I see similarities with seatbelts, MY risk assement is seatbelts are more likely to save me than kill me, so I generally wear it.


I personally know a young lady who broke her nose on the steering wheel (no airbag) in a low speed shunt thru not wearing a seatbelt. She then started using her seatbelt, which probably saved her from being a KSI when she fell asleep at the wheel and hit a lampost, going home from a night shift.

Legal requirement or not I'll keep wearing mine.


Perhaps strangely when on holiday scooters on Greek Islands I don't usually wear a helmet, I prefer to hear clearly what's approaching me and from which direction.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 22:34 
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Any crash that was hard enough to cause whiplash injuries would almost certainly have involved the occupants hitting the windscreen or steering wheel if they had not been restrained, probably with even worse injuries.


There's a key word in there -- probably. Like possibly, or maybe. Nobody knows for sure what type of accident he's going to be involved in, if any.

Is it right for the government to force a device upon somebody because it will probably be beneficial, even though it's known that in some cases it will actually be harmful? As I said, the government has no business playing Russian Roulette with lives, regardless of whether the odds are 50/50 or 1 in 1000.

The analogy with surgery is a good one. The courts have consistently -- and correctly -- upheld the right of an individual to refuse medical treatment, even when the odds of survival without it are slim.

Would you also have medical procedures forced upon people against their will on the basis that they will "probably" be better off?

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In a rollover you are certainly better off being restrained than bouncing aound the inside of the car.


Some rollovers. I have at least one case I can recall immediately in which the driver survived a rollover which crushed the roof of his car down to door beltline level only because he was able to throw himself across the seat as the car started to roll. If he'd been restrained by a shoulder strap he would certainly have been killed.

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Most of the people I have spoken to who think that seat belts are not important have no understanding of the forces involved in a crash.


But equally, many people who push the seat belt line are unwilling to accept the forces involved with belts. They say that the laws of physics mean that you will continue to travel forward and hit the steering wheel/dashboard/windshield. That's true, but those laws of physics don't change just because you've strapped yourself to the seat. You will still continue to travel forward after the crash, only this time you'll hit the belt instead.

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If you fail to wear your REAR seatbelt it's someone else's life you're risking.


A point I've heard a good few times before, but the front-seat driver/passengers are there by their own free will. If they don't want an unbuckled passenger behind, they don't have to be there.

If you don't want to drive your car with someone unrestrained behind you, that's fine. It's your car, and nobody's forcing you to (arguably) put yourself at risk. If I'm happy to drive along with an unbuckled passenger behind me, how is accepting that "risk" any different from accepting the "risk" of driving unbuckled myself?

Remember too that the fitting of rear belts only became mandatory for new cars here in the latter part of the 1980s. There are still a good many cars on the road which have no rear belts. Should people not be allowed to travel in the back of them?

Extend that principle to the front seats of older vehicles. I'm allowed to choose to "put myself at risk" by driving a pre-1965 vehicle which has no seat belts at all. Why then, should I not also be free to choose not to use belts in vehicles which have them?


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 22:50 
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Big Tone wrote:
But that aside, I may go as far as to say seat belts are unnecessary since the introduction of the air bag - aren't they? Is there something a belt does that an air bag doesn't do just as well or better?


The airbag is another safety device which can actually prove harmful in some cases. The image most often portrayed in the media by slow-motion pictures is of a soft, billowing cushion of protective air. The reality is that you are driving around with an explosive charge directly in front of you, which when detonated can easily expel that "soft air-bag" toward you at speeds in excess of 100 mph and with a force of over 1000 lb. Just as with belts, there are cases where an air-bag is not your friend.

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Another point is that on many modern cars, my works Octavia for one, you can't drive without putting your belt on otherwise you have to tolerate a very annoying repeated beep after about 30 seconds, so regardless of legislation I have to wear one.


Easily defeated by disconnecting the buckle switch (and shorting out the connections or leaving them open, depending upon the circuit configuration).

Back in about 1973/74 in the U.S. the Feds actually tried to go a stage further by mandating that all new cars must have a starter interlock to prevent them from being started until the driver's belt was buckled. Needless to say, it was not at all popular given that it made things difficult just for starting to drive in or out of the garage, for testing, etc., and given the fact that voluntary seat belt usage was about two whiskers above nil at that time (this was at least 10 years before New York became the first state to actually make use of belts compulsory).

The interlock was so despised that after only a few months the government had to relent and allow manufacturers to ship the remainder of the model year without it. Dealers also took cars back in to disable the interlock -- Those which had not already been done by their owners.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 00:24 
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I've got a theory. I have no idea if it is right or not, so bear with me. If it wasn't for this thread it would end up in brainstorming one day.

The reduction of risk of death for an average car driver using a seat belt is about 10%. It's worthwhile, but it isn't huge.

Clearly not all drivers will receive the benefit in equal measure.

It follows that for some groups of drivers the benefit of the seatbelt may be negative. i.e. it might increase their risk.

I reckon that the best drivers are the ones most likely to experience a worsening of risk due to seatbelts, while the worst drivers will get the biggest part of the benefit pie.

It's because of the sorts of crashes that different drivers are most likely to have. The worst driver are the most likely to have huge observation failures shunting nose first into big trouble.

The best drivers are more likely to have other kinds of crashes, perhaps involving side impact. If the average benefit is only 10% of so, then there might be quite large numbers of individuals subject to higher risks while belted.

Anyway, like I said... it's only a theory (although some of it is self-evident).

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 00:26 
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It seems I was slightly wrong – for which I apologise – in saying that the the book Unsafe at Any Speed reported that the US Airforce had mandated seatbelt wearing and had noted a drop in deaths. I seem to recall reading it elsewhere, but I can't prove that so I will try to summarise what the book actually does say. I was also wrong to say it was in the 1970's – it was actually the early 50's, where US Armed forces (both Air force and Army) were losing more personnel through automobile accidents than combat in Korea.

Three studies were happening around the same time in the early 50's – the Cornell study, UCLA, and the US Airforce studies led by Colonel John Paul Stapp

The Cornell study was led by Hugh De Haven and was originally centered around aeronautical safety research. Following some work done in Indiana, where a state policeman Sergeant Elmer Paul had coined the phrase Second Collision the Cornell study looked in more detail at automotive safety. Indiana state authorities, persuaded by Elmer Paul, had established the first systematic investigation of injury occurrence in automobiles wrecked on the state highways. The Cornell project was lacking in funds until the armed forces, under the technical guidance of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board (because of the loss of life in car accidents) decided to grant $54,000 in 1953. Over the following 8 years, the total grant was $500,000.

The Cornell group collected data nationwide about the second collision. This was achieved through the co-operation of about 20 states and 5 cities, which arranged for the dispatch of special accident reports, photographs and medical reports showing vehicular damage, the nature and extent of injuries, and the vehicle features or components that were believed to have caused the injuries. The Cornell group studied over 70,000 accident cases in this time.

Colonel Stapp was working to prove how tough the human anatomy can be in tolerating tremendous forces. Using himself as a guinea pig, in 1954 he strapped himself into a giant sled powered by four solid fuel rockets (capable of supersonic speeds) and accelerated himself to 632 mpiles per hour, then stopped in 1.4 seconds. Deceleration in excess of 40g. Stapp proved that the human body had tremendous tolerance for abrupt deceleration, it could survive even the most severe collisions if the vehicle environment was safely defined. His studies explained the phenomenon that most people injured or killed in plane crashes didn't die when the plane hit the ground, but when the person hit the inside of the plane.

At the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) a study was launched, led by J.H. Mathewson and D.M. Severy (no links for these guys, but you can find references to them if you google their names). This involved experimental crashing of automobile to determine deceleration rates, vehicle damage and the effects on instrument-laden anthropomorphic dummies strapped in the seats.

Before Stapp, UCLA and Cornell started their tests, the public had no choice but to rely on the manufacturers as it's sole source of information about the second collision. The motor industry had the field to itself and chose to dispense no information whatsoever.

The outcome of these studies is encapsulated in three general requirements for collision protection in a vehicle:

1. A sound outer shell structure which will retain it's structural integrity under impact – and absorb as much energy as possible – without allowing undue penetration of the striking object into the passenger compartment.

2. Elimination from the interior surfaces of the shell any hard, sharp projections or edges and the prevention of vehicle components (such as steering columns and engines) from penetrating into the compartment, also the application of energy-absorbing materials to reduce impact forces on the human body at all probable points of contact with these surfaces.

3. Provision of passenger restraint systems not necessarily restricted to seat belt devices. to prevent or minimize relative body motion and abrupt contact with the interior of the automobile.

This is a preci of the information contained in the book, full text can be seen in Chapter 3, pages 87 to 89, followed by detailed breakdown of the causes of injury.

So 70,000 accidents studied, a combination of academic and frankly scary military experiments come to the conclusion that safety restraints are important for vehicle occupant safety. Do you have a similar body of research (not anecdotal evidence) to support your position?

As an aside, I think Stapp has entered my list of heroes – right next to Joe Kittinger. Men who did something without knowing if they would survive it, for the greater good of the human race.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 00:36 
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SafeSpeed wrote:
This graph, prepared from DfT data, shows that the biggest ever risk transfer from car occupants to cyclists and pedestrians was coincident with the introduction of the seat belt law in 1983:

Image


as you have graphed deaths for each line as a percentage of the whole number of deaths, there is no way your graph could look any different. Reduce one number and the other 2 have to compensate somehow? I'm not explaining my question very well here ...

Can you reproduce that graph with actual numbers of deaths instead of percentage of the whole? Alternatively, can you present the numbers?

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 01:04 
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Big Tone wrote:
But that aside, I may go as far as to say seat belts are unnecessary since the introduction of the air bag - aren't they? Is there something a belt does that an air bag doesn't do just as well or better?

Another point is that on many modern cars, my works Octavia for one, you can't drive without putting your belt on otherwise you have to tolerate a very annoying repeated beep after about 30 seconds, so regardless of legislation I have to wear one.



Taking the second point first, if you really don't want to wear your seatbelt, just clip it into its buckle BEFORE getting into the car. That's a lot easier than trying to knobble the switch in the buckle and it means that if you sell your car, the next owner can keep the feature!

As for the first point, NOOOOOOOOOOO!

Airbags are referred to a "supplementary restraint systems" and they do just that. As has already been mentioned, seat belts can cause injuries by themselves. When you have a forward crash, you get the choice of "hitting" the back of the seatbelt (if you're wearing one) or hitting the wheel / dash / windscreen if you're not. For me, it's a no-brainer but if anyone prefers to hit the screen, well, each to their own!

The airbag (in Europe where seat belt wearing rates are much higher) was developed to SHARE the deceleration forces with the belt. Cars with airbags generally have "peak load limiters" on their belts. The idea is that the belt will restrain you as much as it can but as the loads get to the point where they are likely to cause serious injury (ribs, shoulder, internal organs) the belt starts to "give" and lets you get closer to the wheel (or dash) and the airbag deploys such that it takes some of the decelerative load and spreads it over a bigger area of your body. If you want to leave the belt off and only rely on the airbag for protection you'd probably be better off with an American car - they generally have bigger airbags that deploy with greater force than European ones.

As for airbags CAUSING injuries, those cases are predominantly in America - where the bags are bigger / more powerful and people don't waer seat belts as much.

Peak load limiters are by no means perfect. They "yield" at loads based on what the average adult male in reasonable health and fitness can stand. Obviously a fat old lady with brittle bones isn't going to benefit much! There is currently research being carried out to try and develop "smart" ones that alter their yield point depending on the size of the driver but they're a way off yet.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 01:28 
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Paul_1966 wrote:
[Some rollovers. I have at least one case I can recall immediately in which the driver survived a rollover which crushed the roof of his car down to door beltline level only because he was able to throw himself across the seat as the car started to roll. If he'd been restrained by a shoulder strap he would certainly have been killed.



I must say, I'm intrigued by this! An ordinary 3-point seatbelt doesn't prevent you from leaning over sideways. A 4-point rally harness would, but there are plenty of times when I've delved in the glovebox (right on the other side of the car from me in the driver's seat) without taking my belt off! Even with the retractor locked (as it would be in a rollover) it's still possible to slip one's torso out from under the belt!

As for you saying that the occupant "certainly" would have been killed, I'd be curious to know how you can be so sure - especially in the light of your comment made earlier in the same post about the use of the word "probably"!

Secondly, I think it's odd that seat belts (harnesses in fact) should be thought of as being so vital in motorsport.

My wife tells an interesting story too. She was a junior doctor doing her "house" jobs when I met her in Warrington. Warrington is an "island" surrounded by the M6, M62 and M56 so they see plenty of high speed road traffic accidents. Some of her senior colleagues in A&E who were working there when the belt wearing laws came in spoke of an almost "overnight" dramatic drop in the number of cases of windscreen injuries. It's absolutely true that they saw an increase in collar bone and rib injuries at the same time but windscreen injuries, by comparison, take absolutely AGES to try and sew back together because they are so fiddly. The effect on the amount of time that this reduction freed up in their casualty department alone was very noticeable.

Finally, having spent most of my working life now in vehicle safety, (funnily enough including about 5 years managing a seat belt anchorage test lab)! I'm a firm believer in seat belts and their benefits. I don't deny for one minute that there are accidents in which a seat belt won't help (and may even make things worse) but in the vast majority of accidents I believe they really do help. My granny smoked like a chimney all her life and lived into her 90's. Even when she did die, it wasn't of a smoking-related illness. In fact, I daresay we can all think of someone who smoked but didn't die of cancer or heart disease...

...but I'm not about to take up smoking!


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 01:51 
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handy wrote:
SafeSpeed wrote:
This graph, prepared from DfT data, shows that the biggest ever risk transfer from car occupants to cyclists and pedestrians was coincident with the introduction of the seat belt law in 1983:

Image


as you have graphed deaths for each line as a percentage of the whole number of deaths, there is no way your graph could look any different. Reduce one number and the other 2 have to compensate somehow? I'm not explaining my question very well here ...

Can you reproduce that graph with actual numbers of deaths instead of percentage of the whole? Alternatively, can you present the numbers?


The source for the graph is my unpublished work. I'll try to dig out the spreadsheet tomorrow (err, later today).

The format of the graph as presented is an interesting one and does accurately illustrate how relative system-wide risks have changed in the 'big three' road user groups.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 07:46 
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handy's comment is correct. I kept looking at the graph and could not understand why wearing a seat belt should increase pedestrian/cycle casualties. The simple reason is that it doesn't. All that has happened, as handy pointed out, is that the percentage of pedestrian casualties is higher because 'in vehicle' casualties is lower.

I think the graph is interesting but all it really shows is that the number of pedestrian/cycle casualties is not falling as fast as vehicle casualties. This is no great surprise because vehicle occupants get better protected with each model improvement but unprotected human bodies are just as vulnerable as they have always been. This might provide a good justification for an 'auto brake' system that would prevent the car colliding with pedestrians/cyclists.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 09:33 
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semitone wrote:
the percentage of pedestrian casualties is higher because 'in vehicle' casualties is lower.


I was playing with some dummy numbers last night and the thing that surprised me was that I could model it quite easily with two data series (e.g. pedestrians vs. car occupants, for example) but the fact that there is no jump in motorbike accidents is difficult to replicate. The only way I can get comparable figures is to dummy the data for the 3rd data series with a comparable (percentage wise) drop at the same time.

Of course, correlation does not mean causation, but a drop in vehicle occupant injuries at the same time as the drop in motorcycle injuries suggests that something else happened around the same time. Some examples could be that:

1. A sudden drop in motorcycle miles travelled
2. Something else happened that affected all wheeled road users - implying that the seatbelt effect was actually less than first thought.

I'm sure there are more options. Just a thought on option 1 though - when was the 2 part motorcycle test put in place? Prior to that, was it the case that you coudl do your test then buy a 1000cc Honda Goldwing? Or am I confusing that with the power limits that came in later on?

[note: I'm still in favour of wearing a seatbelt, but as an academic / analysis excercise this is quite fascinating. Paul_1966, I respectfully decline to sign your petition but if you choose not to wear a seatbelt, that's your choice. If you were a passenger in MY car, you would wear it or walk.]

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 09:41 
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ok own up... who signed up as "What a complete and absolute tosser!!!"

slightly worrying the system let this get through as a name but hey ho.

oh and excuse the cyber stalking but...
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/equalityact2006/
http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/ ... ml?rss=yes


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 09:55 
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Exactly two years ago (Sept. 2005), I conducted a poll on this very board about this very issue. I asked whether the seatbelt law was a worthy measure, or a nanny intrusion. 75% of respondents said they thought it was a worthy measure.

DieselMoment's Seatbelt Poll


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