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Seat Belts Save Lives -- When They Work

September 11, 2003

It is appalling to read that seat belts fail to protect occupants in motor vehicle rollover accidents ("Loosening Seat Belt Safety Rules," Sept. 7). Extensive studies of fatalities in automobile accidents have clearly established that a major cause of death is ejection from the vehicle, the very thing seat belts were designed to prevent. Resistance of carmakers to improve seat belt security is all too reminiscent of design problems in the 1960s Chevrolet Corvair, when company lawyers calculated it would be cheaper to defend lawsuits than to spend just a few dollars more on each vehicle to prevent fatalities.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration deleted a requirement to make seat belts effective in rollovers at the behest of automobile manufacturers and is derelict in its responsibility to protect the public. The pretext that no test has been devised to enforce such a requirement is transparently empty.

Seat belts save lives. As an orthopedic surgeon, I treated thousands of victims of serious automobile accidents. I treated very few who did not wear seat belts; they generally went straight to the mortician.

Joseph Wagner MD

Los Angeles

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It's about time to change the rules that lead to numerous lawsuits and astronomic settlements (paid eventually by the consumer) and to emphasize the driver's responsibility when controlling a vehicle no matter what safety features the vehicle may have. All these safety features and more will be blown away by drivers' mistakes in no time.

And why should we pay for those, enriching the trial lawyers and the victim's kin?

Art Garin

Los Angeles

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