I am truly grateful for your article on safety belts. We who pushed so hard for the new law have been afraid that interest on the part of the media and law enforcement would wane as the year went on and belt use would eventually drop back to the pre-1986 levels. If anything, it appears that Californians may be increasing their belt usage, and periodic features such as yours can only help.
I expect that some readers may note that, although by most estimates the number of persons fastening their belts has more than doubled since the law went into effect, the number of auto passenger deaths has only dropped 2%. Aside from pointing out that there was a significant rise in miles driven, with a concomitant increase of 5% in the number of traffic crashes, you hinted at a third, and possibly more important reason that there has not been a greater decrease in the number of fatalities: more of the major accidents are happening to the drivers not wearing their belts, and this group includes the young and the drunk. If we can get these drivers to buckle up, then the statistics may start to live up to the hopes of all of us with an interest in auto safety.
JAY PHELAN MD
Phelan is chairman of the California Medical Assn. Committee on Transportation Safety.