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Some Driving Laws Can’t Be Broken

When it comes to driving laws, there are a lot of laws that are easy to break and, indeed, are broken by millions of drivers each day. However, there are some laws that can’t be broken, no matter how hard one tries, and these are the laws that a lot of drivers tend to forget about or ignore. These unbreakable laws are, of course, the laws of physics; specifically, Newton's laws of motion. These laws play an important part in our driving experience and, when people forget about them, the results can be tragic.

How do these laws impact our driving? Newton's first law of motion says "An object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force." What that means is that, when a car hits a solid object such as a tree or another car and comes to a sudden halt, the occupants inside the car will keep traveling at whatever speed the car was traveling until they come in contact with the steering wheel, dash, or crash through the windshield. This law can't be broken but it can be overcome - by the simple use of a seat belt.

There are actually three separate crashes in a vehicle collision; all obeying Newton's laws of motion:

1. When the car strikes another object – The faster the car was traveling at the point of impact, the greater the collision forces.
2. When the unbelted bodies inside the car fly forward – The unbelted bodies inside the car will fly forward and, once they strike a solid object, will rebound or bounce off in another direction resulting in more than one impact point until all the energy is expended.
3. When the brain and the internal organs fly forward and strike the skull or rib cage – This final crash is where brain concussions and internal injuries occur.

The seatbelt is the primary lifesaving device in a motor vehicle but lots of people have excuses for not wearing seat belts:

  • "They're uncomfortable." – So is flying through the windshield!
  • "I'd rather be thrown clear in a crash." – This means you are flying out the window onto the concrete at 30 - 40 - 50 mph. No matter how bad the crash, you are always safer restrained within your vehicle.
  • "I'm afraid of being trapped by the seatbelt." – This event is incredibly rare. The seatbelt latch mechanism is so simple that it is almost impossible for it to fail.
  • "I don't need it because I have airbags." – Airbags are considered to be a secondary or supplemental restraint system (that "SRS" you see on your steering wheel) and they depend on the occupant being restrained by the seat belt to work properly. Also, airbags only deploy in a head-on collision so they won't deploy in every crash.
  • "I can just brace myself." – Imagine a 150 lb man trying to stick out his arms to stop himself as he flies into a brick wall at 40 mph. His arms will just snap as they hit. The collision forces are tremendous. In fact, in just a 25 mph crash, an unbelted 100 lb girl will hit the dashboard with a force of 2,090 lbs.
Actually there is no good excuse for not wearing a seat belt. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that, in 2009, 12, 713 lives were saved by seat belts. An additional 3,688 lives could have been saved had the occupants been wearing seat belts. Seat belts won't always save you from injury or death (some crashes are just too horrendous) but they will increase your chances of surviving a collision by up to 55%.

The good news is that, according to NHTSA, seat belt use has increased up to 85%. The greater use of seatbelts is one of the primary reasons credited for the steady decline of traffic deaths on America's roads over the past several years. Remember, it's not just smart to wear a seat belt, it's the law.

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