Why People Ignore Seat Belts

Of the people who use seat belts, most say their reason for wearing them was to avoid injury. A study conducted in 1998 for NHTSA called the Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey (MVOSS) revealed that 97 percent of frequent seat belt users and 77 percent of occasional users wear their seat belts as a safety measure. Other reasons cited included wanting to set a good example, being with other people who are wearing seat belts, and force of habit. More than 80 percent of the respondents admitted they use them because doing so is required by law.

Regarding people who do not wear seat belts, some wear seat belts occasionally and others admit never wear seat belts. According to the MVOSS study, the primary reason occasional seat belt users fail to buckle up is that they are only driving short distances (56 percent). More than half said that they simply forget on occasion. For those who never wear a seat belt, the most commonly cited reason (65 percent) is that seat belts are uncomfortable. Other reasons people gave for not wearing their seat belts include the following:

  • Being in a hurry and not having time to buckle up
  • Light traffic on the roads when respondent drives
  • Not wanting to get clothing wrinkled
  • Resentment at being told what to do
  • Knowing someone who died in a crash while wearing a seat belt
  • Resentment at government interference in personal behavior
  • Never having gotten used to seat belts
  • The belief that with air bags, seat belts are redundant

Safety experts point out that many of these reasons are based on faulty logic. For example, light traffic may have nothing to do with having to make a sudden stop. Air bags, while a valuable safety precaution, are limited in how much they can do. Some overweight people claim that they cannot wear seat belts because the seat belts do not fit them. Some, but not all, auto manufacturers offer seat belt extenders to deal with this problem; others offer customized longer seat belts. The fact remains, however, that there are people who simply will not wear seat belts; they are more comfortable risking being ticketed or potential injury or death.


Inside Why People Ignore Seat Belts