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SHOULD SAFETY BE “OPTIONAL” ? SAFETY THEN vs SAFETY NOW – Defensive Driving to “Live” By

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I am a Baby Boomer. A product of the 60’s. My father and mother were both from lower middle class families. Rising above, my Father’s success measured in new cars. Like that ’68 Toronado convertible with an 8-Track tape player, blasting the Ventures. This car was sharp, fast and loaded (like my cousin Amanda). One thing different about this new car…it had seat belts. But, they were cloth lap seat belts that were always conveniently tucked down into the crack of the seat. My Mom’s “arm” was our seat belt (I attribute that to my flat chest). She’s 74 now, and with all of the new safety features in cars, she can still pack a wallop! (my Dad used to call her “The Seat Belt”…now he calls her “The Airbag”…nice one Dad). In fact, since 1966 laws were put in place that required automobile manufacturers to make seat belts a standard feature in all cars produced. However, federal law did not require that drivers and passengers use seat belts or assess punitive measures for those who did not. Safety was “optional” then. Not until 1984 did New York become the first state to pass seat belt laws. And later, other states followed suit. Thanks to you, Ralph Nader. I think I voted for you once…..

Yes, we Boomers grew up at a time of social change. A time of free love, countercultural values and safety actually being an “option”. Where was the logic??Prior to seat belts, we had steel dashboards covered in a thin layer of vinyl. We would ride in the back window of a car, like a Beanie Baby. Or on the back floor board if it was cold at night with the top down (the car’s top…not mine). On the other hand, speed limits were lower and there was less traffic on the road. We had fewer distractions in the car, too. Now we have GPS, cell phones, t.v. porn…my boyfriend once followed someone through 2 states just to see the “plot”…??? …there’s no plot in porn!  People used to hitchhike everywhere. Now, rarely do I see a hitchhiker. But when I do, I think “What a large duffle bag. I wonder how many human heads you can fit in a bag that size. And, who’s going to pick this guy up??? Maybe another serial killer”. At least they’d have stuff in common to chit-chat about along the way.

Safety options today?Too many to list!To name a few, we have airbags, anti-lock brakes and sensors that won’t allow you to engage your cruise control when the roads are wet (did you know that cruise control + water = dead guy??) Laws require car seats and booster seats for kids as well. In Texas, the height requirement is under 4’ 9” tall or under the age of 8 that a kid needs to be in a booster seat. Thank God times have changed (and so have our parents). We don’t put our kids in the front seat anymore. Since the most common type of crash is frontal, the rear seat is the safest place for kids to ride. A study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) showed that children under 13 are up to 36% less likely to die if they are seated in the rear seat. Front airbags don’t protect children, either. Because they were designed for adults. Do the right thing. Buckle up you and the kids (and the dog). Then you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that everyone is properly restrained when you’re behind the wheel. So all of your passengers can live to a ripe old age like the rest of us Boomers (Me, George Clooney, Ricky Gervais, Madonna, Eddie Vedder, Jon Bon Jovi and Barack).

Until next week…be safe.

Daun Thompson

( Daun Thompson is a comedienne and writer, filling in for Danny Keaton while he is touring the Pacific Northwest and Great Southwest )