Would Isaac Newton Wear Seatbelts?

August 16, 2022

seatbelt safetyWe’ve all seen the signs on the freeway, the public service announcements, the dire warnings from the Department of Transportation. Buckle up! Seatbelts save lives!

But do they really?

(Spoiler alert: Yes. Yes they do.)

Now, chances are, we’re preaching to the choir. After all, in 2021, over 90% of Americans reported using their seatbelts regularly. But just in case you’re part of that ten percent who doesn’t, or you think “surely it doesn’t make that much difference,” we at Scalzo, Zogby & Wittig are here to tell you, yes, it absolutely does.

Thing is, there are times where you might think, why bother buckling up? Maybe you’re popping out to run an errand. Or you’re on a perfectly flat, straight road, the only driver as far as the eye can see. Completely alone.

Only, not really.

Whenever you’re in a vehicle, physics is your constant companion. And, as any police officer or EMT will tell you , Sir Issac Newton is the most dangerous son-of-a-gun on the road.

Say you’re driving along at 50 miles per hour. Or rather, say your car is driving along at 50 mph, and is accelerating you along with it.

Now say the car crashes into something…another car or tree. The car’s inertia has now been reduced to zero, while your inertia continues merrily along at fifty miles per hour. That is until it’s halted by an equal and opposite force, most likely to your head.

But there’s hope.

On your side in this battle against the merciless laws of physics is your seatbelt, a three point harness made from tough yet elastic polyester webbing. Specifically designed to redistribute the force of a sudden stop and to keep your fragile human body inside a metal frame, away from the punishing effects of Newton’s third law. (Whenever one object exerts a force on another object, the second object exerts an equal and opposite one on the first.)

Seatbelts have a good track record, too! They are hands down the most important safety feature in cars and trucks. In 2017 alone, seatbelts saved an estimated 14,955 lives. Studies show that buckling up in the front seat of a passenger car reduces your risk of fatal injury by 45% and moderate to critical injury by 50%. In light trucks and SUVs, those numbers jump up to 60% and 65% respectively.

But maybe that’s not enough to convince you. Maybe you’re eyeing Newton’s 50 mph of equal and opposite force and thinking you can take him on. Maybe you’re thinking, “It’s only a short drive, I’ll be fine.” (Never mind that a whopping 52% of reported accidents occur five minutes away from home!)

The problem is, you have another constant companion.

Front airbags have been required in new passenger vehicles since 1999. In conjunction with seatbelts and crumple zones, they’ve helped to drastically reduce injuries in car crashes.

The key phrase there is, of course, “in conjunction.”

Let’s take another look at our imaginary car crash. You and your car are both going fifty miles per hour, the equal and opposite force of a tree stops the car, and the airbag deploys.

If you’re not wearing a seatbelt….

An airbag deploys in about 55 milliseconds. A literal blink of an eye. That translates to about 200 miles per hour, the average speed of a NASCAR race. Combine that with the inertia of our hypothetical car crash, that’s now 250 miles per hour of stopping power aimed straight at your head.

At best, you’re going to the hospital with a concussion. At best.

If you are wearing your seatbelt, on the other hand, you’re likely able to walk away from your crashed vehicle—maybe with a few bruises—and place a call to your friendly neighborhood insurance company to file a claim.

Sure there’s the hassle of fixing or replacing your vehicle, but that’s where your Scalzo, Zogby & Wittig team comes in. Our dedicated claims department will guide you through the process for a prompt and fair resolution.

So please buckle up. As Sir Isaac Newton might say, stay safe by doing your part in the ongoing battle against the dangers of physics.

Until next time,

Your SZW Team

SZW Insurance is your Utica area Trusted Choice™ independent insurance agent. Call us for a quote on insurance for your home, car, business, or life at 315.792.0000. Or request a quote here.