37. Seatbelts

The automotive equivalent of Joey Buttafuoco’s pants

In 1967 Labours most successful Prime Minister [citation needed] – The Right Honourable Harold Wilson – introduced a law that made the fitting of front seat belts in British cars compulsory.  The idea was that in the highly unlikely event of an accident, the belt could be used to stop the driver and front passenger exiting the car through the windscreen like a javelin pole.  But it wasn’t obligatory for the vehicles occupants to actually fasten the seatbelt until Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government enforced it in 1983.  Strangely it wasn’t until 1987 when car manufacturers were told it was now a legal requirement to fit seatbelts in the back, and even more strangely it wasn’t until 1991 that the wearing of them was the law too.  So, it took from the first production cars in the late 19th Century to 1991 for seatbelts to become a standard legal requirement and ever since things have improved considerably.

I like seatbelts.  Whenever I get into a car I put mine on.  They’re comfortable and they also offer me a security that I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t wearing one.  I know that if I was involved in an accident I would stand a better chance of surviving.  Sadly though, here in the UAE wearing a seatbelt is social death.  I was once given a lift by a friend.  I got in the passenger seat and clipped my belt it.  He turned to me in disgust and asked “what are you doing?”  I explained in simple terms that I was fastening my seatbelt as we were about to move off.  He asked me why. I repeated myself.

This has happened several times.  I have mentioned taxis before and they’re general lack of seatbelts…they don’t see it as a problem.  I have several friends from this part of the world and they all look at the seatbelt in the same way we would look at a Milton Keynes Dons fan; sheer disgust.  Further reasons why they aren’t worn is that they are not comfortable.  A girl I know hates wearing them because she claims that they are too uncomfortable.  I always ask her what she would prefer…to wear the belt or spend the rest of time in a coffin.  She promptly buckles up…

To wear a seatbelt is to apparently bet against yourself in a crash.  I’m sorry but I just don’t understand.  Bet against yourself?  How?  Surely if you crash at 100kph and end up flying through the windscreen then you have lost the bet?  Wearing a seatbelt would likely prevent you being catapulted so you could go and collect your winnings.

Road fatalities in the UAE are on the decrease, we’re told.  And that’s obviously good.  But people are still being killed on the roads, and the common denominator is that they were not wearing seatbelts.  Here’s where things get sad, a lot of them are children.

If you don’t want to wear a seatbelt, fine.  Putting your life at risk is your business, you’re old enough.  But what about your kids?  Everyday I see kids literally roaming around cars.  Commonly they are standing between the front 2 seats or sitting on the front passenger’s lap or even the drivers lap.  Some ride in the boots of bigger cars, banging on the windows.  Some have their heads poking out of windows and some even have their heads out of the sunroof.  They rely on their parents for education in such matters, yet the parents or drivers do not know themselves and are up in arms in distress if something goes wrong.

Today I saw the aftermath of a big shunt.  The windscreen was smashed.  Someone had gone through it…

…But for the click of a buckle…

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3 thoughts on “37. Seatbelts

  1. Harry Croxon says:

    Hi Marty, Harry here again.
    You have been very productive in the last few days. You must have had to spend quite some time researching the strange laws for “chevrons”.
    Quirkiness is a good theme and your writing is full of same. I know some people are fascinated by quirky signs, road signs, shop signs, etc. How about an article or blog on signs with an invitation for readers to send in their favourite images.
    My father used to collect generals, majors and privates as in Major Road Works.
    Melanie tells me you are considering starting a course in journalism to hone your talents so Jeremy Clarkson better take note.
    Well done, and keep them coming, very enjoyable to read.
    Harry x

  2. alf says:

    just two weeks ago I saw in the rear view mirror and thank god it was a real one, a child literally hanging out the rear side window of a Nissan Armada. Approaching a set of traffic lights I slowed down enough to allow that car to pull alongside me so I could just check in the flesh that what I saw was actually not a figment of my imagination. Sure enough a possibly six year old girl was standing on the back seat taking in the views and waving at a whole bunch of non interested road users. As the windows in that car were all open I excused myself with the driver, what I assume to be the mother, and asked her to pay attention to her child who was about to fall out of her vehicle and make a very bad day for the person who would possibly drive over her. She turned to her child and with some resentment waved at her as if she understood she should at least plant her bottom in the seat provided. To my shock I noticed that the mother looked like she would give birth to yet another unfortunate offspring at any moment and even today I feel bad as I felt compelled to ask her if she cared so little for one child why she would bother to have another one. Anyway if the insult resulted in one child sitting down then I somehow feel a little better.

    appalling how what we believe to be mothers and the love of their children can turn into murderers just because they get behind a steering wheel

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