Nils Bohlin would not be impressed.
The Swedish inventor gave the world a life-saving gift and we are senselessly squandering his innovation.
His name might not ring a bell, but it should be sounding a persistent alarm — you know, the kind your vehicle emits when you drive off without a seatbelt on.
Bohlin created the three-point automobile seatbelt for Volvo in 1959 and knew it had the capacity to save lives. Volvo saw its worth and offered the design to other car-makers to make their vehicles safer.
“At the time of Bohlin’s death in September 2002,” History.com notes, “Volvo estimated that the seatbelt had saved more than one million lives in the four decades since it was introduced.”
And no one has really been able to improve on Bohlin’s design, which he created specifically to be convenient — something you can put on with one hand.
And yet in this province the RCMP has reported that in the last five years, about one third of all fatal collisions it has responded to involved deaths where victims likely would still be alive if they had just put on their seatbelt.
Do we value life so little?
Backseat passengers are propelled forward, violently slamming into the seats of the passengers in front. Drivers can wind up like human battering rams, smashing through windshields.
Seatbelt use has been mandatory in Newfoundland and Labrador since 1982. In the early years of the rule’s implementation and until 1996, we were paragons of vehicular safety, with a seatbelt usage rate that was the highest in the country — at 94.3 per cent — and a vehicle-occupant fatality rate that was the lowest, at 8.536 per 100,000 licensed drivers — according to a paper on the effect of seatbelt use on traffic fatalities presented in Canadian Public Policy journal in 2007.
Since then we have become complacent — reckless, even.
Is it because we’re in too much of a hurry and can’t be bothered to click on the harness? Or because we’re not driving far enough for it to be an issue?
Both are foolhardy reasons. Any one of us could be T-boned pulling out of our driveway and there’s nowhere anyone needs to be so urgently that it’s worth risking death en route.
Is it because we have become reliant on airbags to save us?
Also faulty logic.
Airbags don’t prevent drivers or passengers from moving around on impact. They do not guarantee that you won’t become airborne in a collision. Seatbelts are your best chance at staying in your seat.
You can find any number of graphic YouTube videos depicting exactly what happens in a crash to occupants of a vehicle who aren’t wearing seatbelts. Backseat passengers are propelled forward, violently slamming into the seats of the passengers in front. Drivers can wind up like human battering rams, smashing through windshields.
But these are carefully controlled collisions using crash test dummies.
You can’t see the blood, or hear the screams of excruciating pain, or feel the grief of loved ones left behind to grapple with such senseless loss.