Part 5: Buckling Up
The final installment in this five-part series on teen driving examines a critical issue: the failure of buckle up as a matter of routine whenever teens choose to drive or ride in a vehicle. While the necessity of good safety belt practices matters for drivers and passengers of all ages, teens are less likely to buckle up than individuals in any other age category. It is important to be aware of this serious safety lapse so that parents will be motivated to give their teens a proper understanding of the importance of buckling up before every trip, long or short.
Statistics reveal some disturbing truths about what happens when people fail to buckle up. An individual who is involved in an auto accident without wearing a safety belt is 30 times more likely to be thrown from the vehicle. In such incidents, the risk of death is 75 percent. Approximately one-half of all teen drivers involved in fatal accidents were not wearing safety belts. Some 35 percent of teen passengers also failed to buckle up.
The reasons that teens give for failing to use their safety belts vary. Research indicates that 34 percent of teens simply had not developed the habit of buckling up. Another 16 percent assumed that they would remain for the short distance they’d planned to cover. Another 11 percent avoided wearing their safety belts because they found them uncomfortable.
Since seat belt usage is a learned habit, it is imperative that parents take it upon themselves to establish and reinforce that habit from an early age. Leading by example can provide strong positive reinforcement. Insisting that everyone in the vehicle is buckled up before the ignition is even started can make teens twice as likely to buckle up when they’re driving or riding with peers. Teens who find safety belts uncomfortable may not be wearing them correctly. It is important to review the proper procedure and position for seat belt usage to ensure that these devices are both comfortable and effective.