Monday, May 28, 2012

Seat Belts: What's The Big Deal?

I wonder how often doctors speak with patients about wearing seat belts.  We all know it is important, and most states have a law requiring that a seat belt should be worn. (click here for information about each state’s seat belt requirements).  In a busy clinical practice, talking about preventive care (such as why wearing seat belts is important for safety) is difficult on top of all of the other things patients want to talk about.  But it is important.
The use of seat belts is one of those habits that most people just do.  You get into the car, you put on your seat belt.  It is that simple.  If we don’t get into an accident, then all is fine.  But what happens when we are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident?
A recent teenager death from an automobile accident in an Indianapolis suburb hit home to me as a physician who cares for teens.  The teenager who died was not wearing a seat belt.  Over the years, I have also cared for patients who likely would have died were it not for wearing a seat belt.  Their stories are compelling.  In addition, my oldest daughter was in a car crash a few days ago.  She had one minor bruise, but otherwise was unharmed physically.  She was in an age-appropriate booster seat, wearing her seat belt.
It makes me think: why are people choosing to not wear a seat belt?  Seat belts save lives.  So do air bags.  Research clearly demonstrates this.  The use or lack of use of seat belts is a public health issue, which has the potential to impact anyone, regardless of socioeconomic status.
This issue has certainly impacted my family and my practice.  Please, if you get into a car, take the few seconds it takes to click in your seat belt.  As a physician who spends time providing advice to patients, this one is a no-brainer: wear your seat belt when you get into a car—every time, with no exceptions.  It may save your life.


  1. It is interesting that as primary care physicians we do a lot of work and talking about preventative measures that have no evidence supporting them, yet we ignore things that have been shown to be of benefit.

  2. True statement, Mike. Agree with you.