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2016 Scholarship Essay Finalist, Logan Owen

By Stewart J. Guss on March 21st, 2016

By: Logan Owen

Essay Subject: What law would you change or introduce to reduce car accidents?

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     According to NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), seat belt usage in 2013 stood at only 87%, leaving the remaining drivers and passengers unprotected in the event of a collision while traveling. The CDC (Center of Disease Control) reports that in 2009, 33,000 people died in car accidents, with another 2.2 million obtaining injuries from crashes. More than half of these deaths could have been prevented by wearing a seatbelt.

     Federal Law required vehicle being sold in the United States to contain seats beginning in 1968. Wearing seatbelts are, and have been, known to be one of the most effective ways to prevent injury and death from car accidents.

     So, why do every one in seven car passengers make the decision to not buckle up? People will make excuses suggesting, “seat belts are uncomfortable” or “skilled drivers don’t have to wear seatbelts”, but there should be no excuse to wear a seatbelt. Seatbelts were invented and implemented for safety back as far as the mid-1960s, and should be utilized without excuse.

     I suggest a new law that could help prevent numerous injuries and deaths per year is one that the car companies could easily implement. This law would require car companies to prevent the vehicle from moving when seat belts are not being worn. Currently, technology has installed a method to restrict the vehicle from leaving transmission park position without having the brake pedal pressed down. Moving forward, this same technology can be utilized to form another safety precaution algorithm for the use of seatbelts. For instance, the vehicle would detect whether or not a driver or passenger was present and wearing a seatbelt (i.e. seat belt engaged into buckle), and would then determine whether the vehicle was allowed to move out of park position through the transmission shifter.

     One may then inquire what about the scenario of the driver or passenger then removing their seat belt after the vehicle is in motion.  To help further persuade the driver and/or passenger from removing their seat belt, additional logic could be utilized to reduce the vehicle power by 10-12%, or likewise limit the ability to drive at desired speed.

     This law and technology could additionally be extended to the use of child seats, and whether they are strapped into the vehicle’s appropriate anchoring system. Common technology could be utilized to not only sense the child seat presence (possibly through a required simple proximity chip within the child seat), but could also engage a similar buckle to the anchoring system, as is utilized for the seat belts. According to NHTSA, more than a third of children thirteen or younger who died in car accidents were not wearing a seatbelt. The NHTSA also reported that more than 260 lives of children were saved from seat belts in 2011 alone. Seat belts save lives of all ages from children to adults, and therefore use should be strictly enforced in all vehicles.

     With this law implemented, thousands upon thousands of lives can be saved. This law would not be difficult to enforce. The car companies would be able to comply within the next couple of years, adding the technology into each new vehicle model. No longer will every one in seven people not buckle up. No longer will 30,000-plus people die a year from not wearing a seat belt. This law could be the beginning of a new safety standard, preventing easily avoidable injury and death.

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