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Do you have a relationship with your seatbelt?

Seat beltWe all wear them, right? The seatbelt—that webbed material composed of cotton and nylon woven together for strength. When we hear that satisfying “click” of the 3-point latch, we feel safer and a little more secure to venture out on the road. But, we haven’t always been so fortunate to have these safety restraints.

I grew up in the 60′s, just outside of Seattle, when seatbelt laws and regulations were still in the far off future. With four kids, there was plenty of backseat bickering and a few pinches and jabs. One of my favorite places to ride was in the back of my parent’s old station wagon. With the flat cargo space, we would lay down, holding knees to chest and become human bowling balls as my Dad careened around the corners. In my teenage years, Dad’s midlife crisis consisted of purchasing a Triumph GT6+. If we didn’t claim “shotgun” in time, you got to hunker down into the back trunk/hatch (I think I remember being able to see out?), in the fetal position, rolling and bumping down the freeway.

The first US patent for the seatbelt was applied for by Edward J Claghorn in 1885. Seatbelts were described in the patent as, “Designed to be applied to the person, and provided with hooks and other attachments for securing the person to a fixed object.” The seatbelt, however, didn’t necessarily evolve alongside the automobile. It wasn’t until 1964 that most US manufacturers provided lap belts for the front seats. And, it wasn’t until 1989 that rear seatbelts were required to be fitted in new cars.

Today, regulations are much tighter and more restrictive (pun intended), than before. At $124, Washington State has one of the higher fines for failing to wear a seatbelt. I support the law, and I’m glad that the penalty is higher. The more people who adhere to the seatbelt law, both for themselves and their children, the fewer traffic deaths each year. In fact, traffic fatalities in Washington State have continued a downward trend and in 2010, reaching the lowest level in at least 35 years.

So, keep up the good work, Washingtonians, and we hope that you, your loved ones and all of your seatbelts continue to “click”!

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