The Importance Of Seat Belts – A Personal Story

September 3, 2018

From a mother’s and grandmother’s perspective, I am pedantic about children and adults safely restrained in cars with the appropriate seat belts.  

This is a result of personal experience before seat belt days. I was eleven years of age and one of four child passengers in our parent’s car. We were looking forward to our family weekend holiday at the beach, our mother had recently returned home after surgery and we were on our way.

My mother and sister were sitting on the front seat and my father was driving. On the back seat close to the left window I nursed my baby brother. My older brother sat to our right.  Unknown to us at the time a vehicle was speeding down the same road, on the same hill towards us. It wasn’t until we turned the corner heading up the hill that our lives changed. We were hit head on, keeping in mind our car didn’t have seat belts. Tragically, there was no room for my father to manoeuvre our Citroen and we were recipients of the out of control car.

My sister was thrown forward through the windscreen and suffered facial injuries and a broken leg, my mother suffered internal injuries, my father was squashed behind the steering wheel, my baby brother was on the car floor with a broken leg and fractured skull, my older brother a broken nose with glass imbedded in his face. In the offending vehicle a woman died at the scene and another partially crippled.

I had no visual injuries at the time however after more than 30 years of suffering from neck pain an MRI found a badly damaged disc pressing on my spinal cord which was highly likely the result of a severe whiplash from a childhood injury. I was losing the use of my left arm.

It wasn’t until 1970 in Australia when the state of Victoria, became the first western world to introduce legislation for compulsory wearing of seat belts and within 14 month’s other Australian states followed. Following this legislation, it was regarded as having had a large and significant impact on the road toll, helping reduce this from over 3,382 deaths in 1968 to around 2,887 deaths per year 20 years later.

Statistics demonstrate there is a significant improvement to your chances of surviving a crash if wearing a seat belt or restraint and can reduce the risk of fatal or serious injury by half. Even at low speed, not wearing a seat belt can result in serious injury and death. A crash at 40km/h has the same force as falling from a two storey building onto concrete.

In Queensland an average of 31 people are killed and 166 seriously injured on roads each year as a result of not wearing a seat belt or an appropriate restraint. There are myth’s and personal stories people will present to justify their position for not wearing a belt. However, I am most definitely not convinced by any of them, albeit there are always exceptions to the rule and nothing is absolute.  

My experience is only one story and one area of road safety. It is what Queensland’s Road Safety Week is about and I am ‘speaking up for road safety-road rules refresh’. To be mindful of how precious our lives are and how quickly they can be wrenched away.

The focus is to encourage the whole community to have their say and refresh their road rules knowledge. 

Communities, schools, sporting groups and workplaces are encouraged to support the week through hosting local events or sharing road safety information among staff, students, colleagues, family and friends.

If only there were seat belts in cars when I was a kid!


Qld Gov:  Department of Transport and Main Roads “Seatbelts and Restraints, Get the Facts”

Department of Transport and Regional Services, Australian Transport Safety Bureau (2013). Road crash data and rates Australian States and Territories 1925 to 2002, pages 1-2. au/roads/safety/publications/2003/Stats _Aust_9. aspx. Accessed 08/07/15.

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