Ever since our late president Dr. Elizabeth Whelan founded The American Council on Science and Health in 1978, our core mission has been to educate the public and the media about real risks to health, and to ignore those trumped-up, agenda-driven, alarmist fears we so often see in the media. How best to live a long and healthy life, not circumscribed by needless fears and sky-is-falling doomsday rants against everyday substances, chemicals, certain foods and food ingredients, vaccines, fossil fuels and nuclear energy, among other common but unimportant bugaboos that s ACSH s goal.
We often reply, when asked how best to accomplish that seemingly-simple lifestyle, we say, Don t smoke and quit if you do, balanced nutrition which can include fun foods, reasonable medical check-ups and screening tests, vaccines as recommended for kids and adults, and wear your bike helmets and seatbelts, and make sure your kids do too. So when we read a few days ago of the sad demise of Nobelist John Nash and his wife, Alicia, in an auto accident on the New Jersey Turnpike, we were doubly saddened when we realized that their deaths were easily avoidable. The driver was only slightly injured from the accident: he was wearing his seatbelt. As is all too common, the rear-seat occupants, the Nashes, were not.
Laws requiring drivers to wear seatbelts became ubiquitous in the 1970s; while the first such law was a 1968 Federal statute, New York became the first state to require drivers to wear seatbelts in 1984. Most seat belt legislation in the United States is left to the states, and laws passed in many states did not make wearing seatbelts compulsory. New York was the first state to pass a law which required vehicle occupants to wear seat belts, a law that came into effect on December 1, 1984 even so, only 90 percent of drivers actually do buckle up (in New Hampshire, the only state without such laws, the figure is a bit over 70 percent!).
U.S. seatbelt legislation may be subject to primary enforcement or secondary enforcement. Primary enforcement allows a police officer to stop and ticket a driver if he observes a violation. Secondary enforcement means that a police officer may only stop or cite a driver for a seatbelt violation if the driver committed another primary violation (such as speeding, running a stop sign, etc.) at the same time.
ACSH s Dr. Gil Ross had this comment: Just buckle up, really! It takes less than a minute. Even in the back seat, even in a cab a lesson the Nash s fate should teach us. Why trust a cab or limo driver to be a safe driver? It s funny ironic in fact that most people are more fearful of flying than driving, and immediately hook-up their seatbelts when settling into their airplane seats. Yet the number of people injured or killed in planes from not being buckled in is minuscule not that you shouldn t do it, of course you should. Whereas, the number of Americans who die in motor vehicle accidents because of laziness in buckling up is enormous. Sorry to be so blunt, but almost 40,000 of us die in accidents each year, down substantially from the toll before seatbelt use became commonplace. I agree with the editorial in AM-NewYork today: Buckling seat belts in back should be law in NY. True, it shouldn t take a law for you to take a moment to save your life but it couldn t hurt.
ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom added this comment: Dr. Martin DiGrandi, a chemistry professor at Fordham University, and a former colleague of mine at Wyeth, despite being an exceptionally bright fellow, consistently refused to wear seat belts while driving because they were too confining. Duh. This changed rather quickly one day when he was pulled over by a New York State Trooper (for not wearing the belt). DiGrandi said, The trooper told me that he had never pulled a dead body from a car when the victim of an accident was wearing a seatbelt. All of a sudden, the seatbelts started to feel a whole lot more comfortable.