Wednesday 16 July 2014

More seatbelt stupidity

I haven't discussed the merits of seatbelts in quite some time, so I thought I would throw this out there.  Whenever I go a few months without getting reminded of their importance, the universe hits me with something as subtle as getting slapped in the face with a fish.

I will start by saying that this story is boring.  If you'd like to tune out now and go watch some videos of cats, feel free.  It'll probably be more interesting, much funnier, and far more educational.  Hell, I think I'll go watch some myself instead of writing this stupid, boring post.

No, no, no.  This is far too important, and Steve was far too stupid.

Steve was a lovely gentleman in his 60's who, based on his slovenly appearance, was apparently never properly taught how to use a toothbrush, a hairbrush, or a bar of soap.  Though I suspect his relative dearth of teeth and crazy Albert Einsteinesque hair had nothing to do with him running his truck into a utility pole at over 100 kph, I have a strong feeling that his truck was simply trying to commit suicide to avoid his stench.  The fact that he was ejected from the vehicle after the crash only strengthened my suspicion that the truck was desperate to get rid of him.

He was unconscious when the medics first found him in a ditch about 10 meters from his truck, having been thrown out the roof (which had torn open like a tin can).  His dog had been thrown 5 meters further and had not survived.  He started to wake up in the ambulance and was unfortunately appropriately obnoxious when he arrived.

"This is Steve", the medics started.  "He was the unrestrained (read: no seatbelt) driver of a truck which ran into a pole.  The pole won.  He's complaining of chest and back pain."

"Not wearing your seatbelt?  Why not?" I asked him.  I am quite certain the look he returned me was one of absolute defiance.  What he said, however, was so ridiculous I nearly laughed.

"Because if I had been wearing it, I'd be dead now!" he said.

I decided not to press the issue at that very moment, because I knew there would be plenty of time for that later.  I pushed on his chest which earned me an "OW!" from his mouth and a distinct *crunch* from his chest wall.  An X-ray confirmed multiple rib fractures on both sides, but fortunately his lungs hadn't collapsed.  In addition to lacerations on his scalp and lip, he had fractures in his thoracic spine, lumbar spine, multiple ribs, and sternum (breast bone).

Steve stayed with me in the hospital for several days, mainly because he hurt all over and couldn't walk.  All the while I was biding my time, waiting for the right opportunity to bring up the seatbelt issue again.  I like to do that when family members are around just to strengthen the effect.  Not surprisingly, no one came.  Steve went home a few days later, the opportunity to educate him lost.

I had the opportunity a week later when he came back to see me in my office.  With his wife.

He was only slightly less disheveled and smelled slightly better (that is, slightly less worse) than when I met him.  His wife, on the other hand, looked surprisingly well-put together.  After doing my examination and determining that he was healing just fine, I launched into my seatbelt tirade.  His wife was nodding through the entire speech, but Steve himself remained with a defiant look on his face.

"Look Doc, I've been in car accidents before," he started.  "I've broken this leg, this ankle, this arm, this shoulder, and a bunch of ribs in other accidents.  I probably would've died if I had been wearing one of those damned death traps.  The only thing that saved me was getting thrown free of the wreck."

I looked at him dumbfounded.  Other accidents?  How many?  Are you the worst driver in the world?

"No, Steve.  That is not the way that physics works.  Have you ever considered that if you had been wearing your seatbelt, you wouldn't have broken all those bones?


"Put it on, Steve.  Or else the next time you might not be so lucky.  Just PUT IT ON."

That goes for all of you, too.


  1. GASP!!! Was Steve his real name? I didn't see the NHRN©™ advisory.

    Anyway, here in Michigan in the States, (I'm assuming from your use of the metric system that you're living in a civilized nation and not here), you can get what's called a "Click-it-Ticket" and be fined $90 for not wearing your seatbelt. And trust me, the police actively sit and watch for people without them. Hitting me in my wallet was what finally compelled me to start wearing mine. I'm not even sure I had a rationale before then for not wearing one except that they're uncomfortable, which isn't really a compelling argument when you consider how uncomfortable broken bones and extensive tissue damage from being thrown from a vehicle can be.

  2. I started wearing seatbelts at the requirement of my parents in their new 67 Plymouth (check your history the weren't required equipment until 68). Accident 4 months later, combined impact speeds of 70mph, other driver, her fault, died. My brother, father and I walked with bruised hips - believer ever since.

  3. When my kids were little and in the back seat in their car seats, we'd get a chorus (if a chorus can be 2 little voices) of fasten your seat belts Mommy and Daddy. Their Dad was a slacker at times and they'd harangue him until the click.

  4. I have never, ever heard anyone complain that their relative would have lived if they hadn't been wearing a seat belt. When my son was a teen he was in a roll over accident. (He was not the driver.) He was the only one in either car who was wearing a seat belt. He was the only one who walked away with only bruises. When I got to the ER the doctor told me that he asked my son how he didn't allow peer pressure to keep him from buckling up. He said that my son said that when he was deciding to buckle all he could think of was his parents saying "It's not negotiable." He's a father now and kept his sons in safety seats as long as he could before they outgrew them.

  5. We convinced our kids that the car could not start without all occupied belts clipped into place.

  6. I'm so used to having a seat belt on i sometimes try to get out with it still clipped in. I wont turn the car on (even to warm it up) if my passangers are not wearing seat belts. As a beginner driver you could loose your license if anyone in the vehical isnt wearing theres.

  7. since we seem to be telling origin stories, I will say that I began wearing seat belts whether they were comfortable or not when I realized that the driver does not have extra hands and feet to hold his position behind the wheel. now I am habituated to the point I will more often than not, fasten the belt when I am only pulling the 40 feet to the end of the driveway and getting out to grab the newspaper before actually pulling onto a public road.

    that said, my first major accident involved a driver who was thrown partially clear when his pickup rolled over. the official acronym is "DRT" - "dead, right there"

  8. Here in California - "CLICK IT OR TICKET" ranges from $142.00 and up. A Minimum of $445.00 for not properly restraining a child under the age of 16. I always wear a seatbelt. The thought of NOT wearing a seat belt, in a horrific car accident and ejected with such force through a windshield gives me the chills. I am speechless to read this article. This is beyond frustration, overwhelming and personally if I was in Dr. Bastard shoes - I would have pulled every strand of my hair!!!!!!! I would think that Dr. Bastard with all his years being a Trauma Surgeon, would of heard and seen it all. I don't think that will ever be the case.

  9. My parents convinced us that the car wouldnt start unless they were all clicked in.

    They also convinced us that there was a button on the dashboard that you can press and the car will take you home.

  10. I do not remember when I started to wear one,likely after my brbrother tried to hang me out the window when traveling once or falling out of the car when moving with my papa. With my son and all kids that I travel with ( my son is older now 17, I work with kids in the system) our rule is hands together and buckle up and shut door. A lot of the kids when new have never worn one- which is very sad. Without the seatbelt the door does not shut.

  11. Not wanting to bore with repetition of comments I have made before, but the destruction of a modern vehicle in a collision is the most fantastic demonstration of science and engineering in action. There is a huge amount of energy in a fast-moving vehicle*. If the vehicle stops suddenly then that energy has to go somewhere fast.

    All that energy will mess the occupants of the car up pretty badly if it goes into them, so the vehicle is designed to absorb most of that energy in its own destruction rather than pass it on to the passengers. Cars have air-bags and crumple-zones and pre-tensioners and protected cockpits, and every movement of every part is designed and tested so the engine will get pushed down below the driver rather than through his knees and the roof will support the interior if the car rolls and all these types of things.

    The problem with all of this is that it can only work if the occupants of the car stay in their seats. What good is a nicely intact cabin with a nice energy-dissipating air-bag for the driver's face to hit if the driver's face has been used to break his way out through the windshield?

    Personally, I think that everyone should consider it a duty to wear their seatbelts, if only out of respect for the amount of work that has been put in to keeping them as safe as possible. Take John Stapp, for example. Would you really ask him to go through all that, and then ignore the conclusions?

    Belt up - it's not only mad, but plain impolite, not to.


    *There's close to 500,000 Joules of energy in a 1-ton car traveling at 70mph - that's about the energy of a sky-diving cow! Think about catching that....

    1. Dude. I love this approach. It's humorous, but you've got a point! Hehe… it made me smile. Thanks.

    2. She's doing just fine now, Ugi. Thanks for asking.

  12. I don't understand people who don't wear their seatbelts. Honestly.
    My friends like to tell the story about the time I told everyone to buckle up, they said they did, I was on the road, and I realized that one of the guys in the back was not buckled up. I pulled over immediately and wouldn't move the car until he was. Not dealing with that shit.
    I was a little shit about wearing my seatbelt when I was a youth (12-14), but I have learned my lesson since then.

  13. I mean, yeah. Okay. It DOES happen once in a GREAT while that the seatbelt will actually kill someone in a wreck. Statistically, that's gonna happen. However… your chances of survival are so much greater and your risk of injury so much lower while wearing a seatbelt that it's totally worth it.

    Anecdotal proof (hah!): I was in a terrible, terrible high speed freeway rollover accident about 8 years ago. I was temporarily blind, had a bad concussion and bleeding in the head, whiplash, all kinds of contusions, a cracked rib, and a broken toe. That's it. The two that weren't wearing their seat belts were both in ICU for a week, one with a fractured pelvis and lacerated spleen and the other with a completely exploded spleen. The seatbelt saved my life, I'm certain of it, and when I was able to drive my policy was that we don't go until everyone is buckled up. Don't care how long we have to sit there, you buckle up when you're a passenger in my car.

  14. an addendum to my previous comment: only about 50% of people who get in collisions with seat belts on get hurt badly enough for Doc B to see them. only about 50% of people who get in collisions without seat belts fare well enough to merit Doc B seeing them.
    I recall one statistic that cited a 25% increase in patients admitted to the ER with broken legs when airbags became common - detractors left it at that. supporters pointed out that it was accompanied by a 25% decrease in people going directly to the morgue.

  15. I teach Physical Science. We do a unit on forces involved in collisions, and an accident reconstruction expert is a guest speaker. We construct restraint systems for little crash dummies and trace chalk outlines of our unrestrained DRT dummies. I plan to use excerpts from this blog with my students, Doc B permitting. (?okay?). If I get one of these teens to buckle up, I count it as a win.

    1. I will expect a royalties cheque from you forthwith.

    2. Well, okay, but as a part time teacher, we will have to barter. How do you feel about kittens?

  16. Cannot add a thing regarding the life-saving benefit of seat belts for humans.

    People forget that unrestrained pets can become projectiles in an accident. The unluckiest ones die outright. Many simply run away from a wrecked vehicle and are not found.

    Cats in carriers, please. Small dogs in carriers, please. Large dogs in harnesses/doggie seat belts, please.

    May I make a totally off-topic remark? I am going to be attending a memorial service for a cousin today. He died piloting a motorcycle, splitting traffic at 9:30 p.m. and clipped a semi and was thrown from his Harley. I believe he was also run over after the bike went down. Deceased at the scene.

    I am not a fan of motorcycles right now. If you insist on riding a donor cycle on the roads, always pilot those things with the utmost care, and never assume drivers in cars see you coming. .

    1. first rule I was taught was to assume that the drivers do not see me.

  17. Here in Illinois it's the law that persons in the vehicle are required to wear one. I'd feel lost without mine, it's so putting the key in the ignition.

  18. Correction: all people, front and back seat.

  19. Since we're sharing origin stories, I'll break the chain. I've worn a seat belt since the day I was allowed out of the car seat. Didn't need any coaxing: Mom had false teeth cause half of hers got knocked out when she wrecked her car and her mouth hit the steering wheel.

    No, my story isn't about the reason why I wear a seat belt. I know why I do it, and it's not just because of the law.

    No, it's about seatbelts that save lives, and my thoughts on air bags...

    You see, the seatbelt is a curious thing. It's designed to lock up hard and transmit the force of your body through the ribcage, arguably the strongest part of the body (I'm no doctor, but I'm fairly sure all those bones have a combined breaking force well above the lethal impact limit...) in order to lock you in place in the event of an impact.

    The airbag, on the other hand, is a bomb. It's design is to explode violently in an impact and break your face and your hands. Yes, I understand, without it, there's a potential of internal decapitation and thereby it does help save lives. Unfortunately, there's two things very wrong with it, and one of which may paint me as a, shall we say, slightly-evil being.

    The first thing wrong with the airbag is the amount of kinetic energy expended directly into your face, hands, and anything in the way. I've heard it stated (surely this can't be right) that it's like being punched by a boxer. The problem is that the punch the airbag does is omnidirectional. It hits hands, knees, face, anything between it and the target. Which means things like sunglasses get crushed into your face, someone's hand hits your face with violent amounts of force (to be fair, Dad was reaching for the map I was handing him at the time of the impact. Oncoming lane, car pulled out to pass and smashed head-on into us.), and the next thing you know, what might've been just a bunch of bruising has turned into a broken nose. Dad had a broken thumb (left hand) and dislocated fingers (right hand) along with chunks of plastic (my sunglasses...) as well as again, a broken nose.

    The second thing wrong with airbags, and the one that paints me as evil, is that they retain people who ignore the primary restraint device. You don't want to wear the seatbelt because it's uncomfortable, then fine, wear this glass collar called "your head stuck through a windshield" and see how much you wish you had put that belt on. Or see how fun it is when you go flying around the inside of the car when there's nothing stopping you from going forward.

    Our family is no stranger to car accidents. Mom lost teeth, Dad nearly got fired, and my nose is still slightly crooked. I'm hoping to break the chain by not driving one of these 3000 pound human-guided cruise missiles around.

    1. you don't understand the principle behind either seat belts or airbags.
      a seatbelt is designed to lock up so your body begins decelerating at the moment of impact, instead of continuing at the same velocity until it strikes the windshield, which in the split second of collision has already decelerated to a fraction of its previous speed; at which point your body decelerates at about 10 times the deceleration rate as with the seat belt. - that rate of deceleration can tear loose internal organs, to say nothing of what it does to the impact zone.
      as for airbags, they are designed to distribute the impact force in a more or less even manner across your entire surface area. first generation airbags were quite violent, and yes, designed to save the life of a 200 pound male who was stubbornly not wearing his seat belt. now they are designed more with the intention of getting fully deployed in time for you to smack into the airbag rather than the steering wheel.
      what might have been a bunch of bruising on your dad is more likely to have still been broken thumbs from the impact against the spokes of the steering wheel, cracked ribs from the shoulder belt, a broken nose, from having his head snap far enough forward to strike the steering wheel, along with spinal injuries from the force of his head snapping forward.

      yes, getting in a collision with an airbag deployment is like getting punched by a boxer. but in comparison, getting in a collision without airbag deployment is like getting hit by a car.

  20. I rolled my first car on an icy road back in the seventies. I was wearing a seat belt.
    Luckily the car rolled just once and stopped on its wheels. I was so impressed to be still holding the steering wheel and facing where the windshield glass used to be. Everything else in car was tossed around into a mixed salad mess. I remained in control until the last possible second.

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  22. Many people don't realize how important it is to wear a seatbelt. They are uncomfortable at times but in the event that something happens they will save your life. I’m glad you brought your thoughts up to Steve because him wearing his seatbelt could be the thing that saves his life In the future if he ever got in another accident.


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