Whatever happened to …

… seatbelts?

Actually, a lot!

Normally, this post focuses on things that have gone by.  This is about things that have got better over the years.  And, it was inspired by a reply to last week post.  So, thanks, Noeline for the inspiration.

The link there to seat belts was a great historical review for me and it brought back so many memories of this thing that I hate and drives me crazy.  Although, I will admit the technology is so much better today.  Plus, I’m too cheap to risk getting caught without wearing it and paying the fine.

My first vehicle was an old pickup truck.  I don’t recall it even having seat belts.  One of my secret pleasures is attending old car and truck shows and looking for this old Chevrolet.  I found one once and looked inside.  The dash looked the same and, because it had been restored to be drive-able on the road, it had very obviously new seat belts in it.

Regardless, we would never have worn them at the time.  I don’t think anyone did.  Ditto for my parents’ car although it did have them.  We just pushed these annoying contraptions behind the seats so they didn’t get in the road.  Of course, we did stupid things like riding in the back of a pickup truck or my wife reminds me of driving in her aunt’s station wagon going up and down steep hills and being elevated from their seats.

There did come a time, in Ontario, when wearing them became compulsory.  I can remember the first attempts to police it and lines of cars would be stopped to make sure that occupants were wearing them.  They were so annoying.  They were the same design for front and back.  I guess technically, they were called lap belts and this big clasp always seemed to uncomfortably sit right in the middle of your stomach.

We always thought – sure the government can make us wear it but we don’t have to wear it tightly.  We were such rebels.


But you wore it because the penalty was $25 or something.  Everyone kept a razor blade in the ash tray to cut the belt if you got in an accident and couldn’t get loose.  There was this story circulating about someone who had gone into a lake and drowned because they couldn’t get free!

Then, to add to the level of annoyance (and your safety), the lap belt became more like the seat belt that we have today.  The clasp was now off to the side but the part that went over your chest would end up choking you.  To solve this, Canadian Tire used to sell these little clips that would go over the belt to stop it from fully retracting.  If one wasn’t available, those big paper clips worked nicely too.

Of course, these days, seat belts are standard features on vehicles and have never been better although there have been a few recalls.  They no longer choke, are adjustable in height, and you’re reminded through sensors when a person is sitting in a seat without a belt in place.  Red lights flash on the panel and a chime is there to let you know.  There are still signs on the 401 to remind you that their use is mandatory but those signs are starting to really show their age.

It’s a costly offence with fines starting at $200 and earning you 2 demerit points.

So, your thoughts for a Sunday…

  • do you remember a time before seat belts were part of a car design?
  • do you remember riding in a vehicle before it was mandatory to wear one?
  • how do you handle the uncomfortableness of a seat belt or do you just deal with it?
  • is it really necessary to warn people about driving unbuckled with the chimes and alarms on cars?
  • do you get a secret sense of experience when a flight attendant explains to young people how lap belts work on airplanes?
  • with advancements in air bag and other technologies, do you see a time when seat belts will no longer be necessary?

Please share your thoughts in the comments.  I want to know if I’m the only person around here who predates seat belts!

This is a regular Sunday post here.  You can read all of them by clicking this link.

And, if you have an idea for a post, just let me know.  These are a great deal of fun to write.


Published by dougpete

The content of this blog is created by me at the keyboard or as a result of an aggregator of my daily reading under the title OTR Links. On Fridays, look for my signature post "This Week in Ontario Edublogs" where I try to share some great writing from Ontario Educators. The other regular post appears Sunday mornings as I try to start a conversation about things that have gone missing from our daily lives.

6 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. I can just barely remember a time before seatbelts. I was pretty young when the law changed, and mostly just accepted it. I do remember my mom having to scold us for previously acceptablable behaviour like switching seats, climbing over the front seat or standing up while the car was in motion. She put the fear into us by telling us the cops would take us all to jail if we didn’t keep our seatbelts on , or reminding us of horrific accidents where a whole family died except the one kid wearing a seatbelt. I don’t think it took long for us to comply and I don’t even think about it now, I just automatically put the seatbelt on.

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  2. I’m smiling here, Ramona. I think all parents use threats like this to get compliance from kids. You’re right though; now I don’t think that putting the seat belt on is even given a second thought. It’s just what you do.

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  3. My Dad hated to wear seatbelts. He was afraid of getting trapped in the car. I adopted them pretty early though. I wasn’t religious about it for many years though. One day my wife and I were driving with our then very young son and telling him to wear his seat belt. All of a sudden we realized that if we wanted our son to always wear his belt we needed to set a good example. we’ve been very consistent about wearing the belts ever since.

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  4. Interesting to read and reflect on all this! It is strange to think that I spent most of my childhood not wearing seatbelts in cars and now it is an automatic thing I do. My own children only know wearing them. I would think we will always have seatbelts as they are now, but one never knows for sure…

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  5. The first car I remember was my father’s 1956 Pontiac. 4 doors, pink and grey, no seatbelts. On long trips, I remember sleeping in the back window on a ledge. I have no idea what my father was able to see through the rear view mirror.

    I remember everything you wrote about above. The only thing you missed was the (hopefully) urban myth about the poor people who were hit from the side while wearing those things. (I’ll leave that to your imagination.)

    Now however, I don’t feel comfortable in a vehicle unless I’m buckled in. Just seems – I don’t know – ‘unsafe’ without them.

    Here’s a question though: why aren’t there seatbelts on school buses? 40 kids travelling down county roads, often in the dark, no belts. What could go wrong?

    And another: why hasn’t seatbelt technology ever been updated on aircraft? I have to watch airline attendants remind me how to use technology from the mid 1960s every time I fly… “Simply lift the top part of the buckle…”

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    1. Every now and again you hear of school buses with then but the biggest answer is certainly no. Could you imagine the number of censors that could go off if the implementation followed that if cars?

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