It’s a Cinch to Save a Life
September 1989

“It’s a Cinch to Save a Life,” Ensign, Sept. 1989, 71–72

It’s a Cinch to Save a Life

What a beautiful porcelain figurine—so perfect and yet so fragile. It must be worth a fortune! If someone were to give you such a gift, would you put it carelessly in the back of your car or pickup truck, hoping it wouldn’t break or fall out before you reached home? Or would you, perhaps, lay it carefully on the seat beside you, thinking that surely you could secure it in the event of a sudden stop?

Of course you wouldn’t. Yet people often do this to themselves and their families—who are of infinitely more worth than the costliest figurine—when they travel in a car.

What kind of care should you take to protect yourself and your passengers while you are driving? The answer is simple but effective: Use safety belts and crash-tested, approved child car seats. Researchers have found that wearing a safety belt can reduce by one-half your chance of being hurt seriously in a crash, and those percentages hold true regardless of speed. Safety belts help by:

  1. Stopping the wearer’s forward motion when the car’s forward motion stops.

  2. Keeping the head and face of the wearer from striking objects inside the car, such as the windshield or dashboard.

  3. Spreading the stopping force widely across the strong parts of the body.

  4. Stopping vehicle occupants from colliding with each other.

  5. Helping the driver maintain control of the vehicle, thus decreasing the possibility of an additional collision.

  6. Keeping occupants from being ejected from the car.

If wearing safety belts is so helpful, why don’t more people use them? Here are some of the common reasons—and the corresponding facts:

“I can touch my head to the dashboard while I am wearing my safety belt, so there’s no way it can help me in an accident.” Safety belts are designed to allow you to move freely in your car. They are also designed with a latching device that locks the safety belt in place if your car comes to a sudden halt. It’s there when you need it.

“I don’t need safety belts because I’m a good driver. I have excellent reactions.” No matter how well you drive, you can’t control the other car. There’s no way to protect yourself against someone else’s poor judgment or bad driving or your or another car’s mechanical failure.

“In case of an accident, I can brace myself with my hands.” In a crash or sudden stop, your body weight is multiplied by the speed of the car. That means a thirty-pound child in an impact of forty miles per hour will strike the interior car surfaces or objects outside the vehicle with the force of a twelve-hundred-pound object. At thirty miles an hour, a person would be thrown toward the dashboard with the same force as if he or she jumped headfirst off a three-story building. No one’s arms and legs can withstand that kind of force.

“I need to wear safety belts only when I have to go on long trips or when I am driving at high speeds.” Eighty percent of deaths and serious injuries occur in cars traveling slower than forty miles per hour, and 75 percent of deaths or injuries occur fewer than twenty-five miles from home.

“I don’t want to be trapped by a safety belt. It’s better to be thrown free in an accident.” Being thrown free is twenty-five times more dangerous than being held in the car. Safety belts can keep you from plunging through the windshield, being thrown out the door, or being crushed by your own car. And if you’re wearing your belt, you’re far more likely to be conscious after an accident to free yourself and help your passengers.

“But what if I’m trapped in a burning or submerged car?” Less than one-half of 1 percent of all injury-producing collisions involve fire or submersion. But if fire or submersion does occur, wearing a safety belt can still save your life. If you’re involved in a crash without your safety belt, you might be stunned or knocked unconscious by striking the interior of the car. Then your chances of getting out would be fewer.

“Most people would be offended if I asked them to put on a safety belt.” Polls show that the overwhelming majority of passengers would willingly put on their belts if only you, the driver, would ask them.

“I just don’t believe that it will ever happen to me.” Every one of us can expect to be in a crash once every ten years. For one out of twenty of us, it will be a serious accident. For one out of every sixty children, it will be fatal.

Think of that fragile figurine. Think of yourself and your children. There’s no comparison in the care you should give. Do all you can to protect a life.—Relief Society General Presidency

Illustrated by Rob Magiera