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Opinion
Severe penalties for seat belt offendersPublish Date: Dec 03, 2013
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By Nabuzale Katherine

Currently, Uganda ranks among the top countries with  the highest number of  road accidents in Africa. Despite the fact that there is a compulsory law on the use of seat belts.


Wearing a seat belt is not to the advantage of traffic officers but rather to vehicle users.

All too often, drivers and their respective passengers will rush to buckle up or pretend to have done so only at the sight of a traffic officer. One wonders whether in the wake of an accident, it is the officer who will be at risk or the car occupants.

It is a clear observation that majority of drivers and passagers are not keen on wearing seat belts.

The reasons why they don't see the necessity is something else to ponder over. Perhaps these are among the lot that views seat belts as status symbols meant for an exclusive class of our society. Such beliefs only amount to irresponsibleness hence going on to undermine the compulsory use of the seat belts law.

Disregarding the use of seatbelts is carelessness against personal safety emanating from the wrong mindset. In a country like ours where a good percentage of people think that when an accident happens and they are casualties, then 'it was a predestined'. A lot needs to be done to popularise the importance of using seat belts.

It is no surprise that almost everyone agrees that wearing a seat belt is a good cause although they seem not to have those extra seconds to buckle up.  A few seconds of having that little piece of fabric across one’s body could be the slim line between life and death.

According to research, seatbelts  though might occasionally contribute to serious injury or death, nearly all safety experts agree that buckling up dramatically decreases the injury in the event of an accident. Consequently, strengthening the fact that many car accident fatalities would have been avoided, if the victims had worn seat belts. This is not a far fetched scenario as time and again,many of us have witnessed such phenomenons.

Almost every road user complains about the recklessness on the roads in the Uganda. Narrations of incidences that have happened on the roads and how they have survived accidents. And yet they continue to get into their vehicles, drive off without seat belts well aware that anything unexpected could happen at any time. Then there is the common sight of parents letting their kids jump and play about in vehicles without anything to pass for protection.  How do we expect these kids to grow up valuing seat belts?  Parents, the onus is upon us, if we want to see change on our roads.

 Otherwise, unless severe penelties for seatbelt offenders are re-enforced, coupled with persistent massive sensitisation campaigns, statistics will only soar. The Government will get more trapped in wasteful spending trying to clean up the mess. Nobody wants to be a statistic because of negligence. Save lives,wear safety belts, have them on rightly and ensure that they are in good functioning condition for effectiveness.

Crashing concepts


The basic idea of a seatbelt is very simple: It keeps you from flying through the windshield or hurdling toward the dashboard when your car comes to an abrupt stop. But why would this happen in the first place? In short, because of inertia.

Inertia is an object's tendency to keep moving until something else works against this motion. To put it another way, inertia is every object's resistance to changing its speed and direction of travel. Things naturally want to keep going.

If a car is speeding along at 50 miles per hour, inertia wants to keep it going 50 mph in one direction. Air resistance and friction with the road are constantly slowing it down, but the engine's power compensates for this energy loss.

Anything that is in the car, including the driver and passengers, has its own inertia, which is separate from the car's inertia. The car accelerates riders to its speed. Imagine that you are coasting at a steady 50 miles per hour. Your speed and the car's speed are pretty much equal, so you feel like you and the car are moving as a single unit.

But if the car were to crash into a telephone pole, it would be obvious that your inertia and the car's were absolutely independent. The force of the pole would bring the car to an abrupt stop, but your speed would remain the same. Without a seatbelt, you would either slam into the steering wheel at 50 miles per hour or go flying through the windshield at 50 miles per hour. Just as the pole slowed the car down, the dashboard, windshield or the road would slow you down by exerting a tremendous amount of force.

It is given that no matter what happens in a crash, something would have to exert force on you to slow you down. But depending on where and how the force is applied, you might be killed instantly or you might walk away from the damage unscathed.

If you hit the windshield with your head, the stopping power is concentrated on one of the most vulnerable parts of your body. It also stops you very quickly, since the glass is a hard surface. This can easily kill or severely injure a person.

A seatbelt applies the stopping force to more durable parts of the body over a longer period of time.

 rkatham@yahoo.co.uk

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