Advocates hail news that driving without a seatbelt is safe

Advocates of seatbelt free driving are hailing the results of the largest study ever done of driving without a seatbelt.

Investigators compared 16,000 women who drove without a seatbelt to the grocery store to 16,000 women who were wearing a seatbelt on the drive to the grocery store and found that the number of deaths was very similar. In fact, for experienced drivers driving to the grocery store, fatalities were the same.

The authors investigated only those who were at low risk for a fatal crash by applying a long list of exclusion criteria. Drivers could only be included in the study if their drive to the grocery store took place

  • during daylight
  • in the absence of rain
  • on roads that had no potholes
  • only if there were no other cars on the road during the entire route.

Overall, the number of fatal outcomes was similar in both groups, but in depth analysis revealed that most of the fatal outcomes occurred in the subgroup of first time drivers. In contrast, for women who had driven before AND

  • never had an accident or speeding ticket
  • never drove drunk in the past, texted or even talked on a cellphone during driving
  • were driving cars with front and side airbags

the results were very similar.

Of note, the authors found a surprisingly high rate of drivers changing their minds. Between 36-45% of first time drivers actually ended up wearing a seatbelt even though they had planned not to do so. A far smaller number, 10-15% of experienced drivers also wore seatbelts even though they had not intended to do so.

The study was conducted by Seatbelt-Free America, a consortium of auto manufacturers who have long argued that the requirement to put seatbelts in all cars adds needless expense and results in only minimal benefit.

In a press conference, Ima Frawde CPG (certified professional gadfly), leader of the study explained the results:

This, the largest study of its kind, demonstrates that all women should be offered the choice of buying a car without seatbelts. Of course, women should receive adequate counseling from their auto salesman, about the slightly increased risk of fatal outcomes among first time drivers, but it they elect to buy a car without seatbelts, that it their decision.

Ms. Frawde continued:

The risk of a fatal accident was very low in both groups, suggesting that driving to the grocery store with or without a seatbelt is extremely safe. The additional protection afforded by wearing a seatbelt was relatively trivial, just a few deaths avoided per thousand drivers.

During the press conference, a reporter asked if this study of seatbelt use restricted to driving to the grocery store during daylight, in the absence of rain, on roads that had no potholes, and only if there were no other cars on the road during the entire route was generalizable to the population at large, given that many drives are far longer, it is often raining, many roads have potholes and there are usually other cars on the road.

Ms. Frawde expressed surprise:

Why wouldn’t it be?

This piece is a satire on the response of homebirth advocates to the recently published Birthplace Study.

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