March 2014

The Seat Belt, an Unnecessary Luxury for Bolivians?

“Crazy traffic,” was one of the first things that popped into my mind when I landed in Cochabamba. Compared to Buenos Aires there is not an immense difference, but, traffic rules (those that exist) are taken even less seriously here. It is not the speed, ignoring crosswalks or passing rights that are the most interesting of my observations, but the use, or lack there of, of seatbelts.

By: Simone Batelaan
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Den Haag -The Netherlands


Photo: Ximena Noya

The seatbelt:

‘a belt or strap in an automobile, airplane, etc., fastened around or sometimes diagonally across the midsection to keep the person safely secured, as during a sudden stop’, was originally invented by English engineer George Cayley in the early 19th century. It became a real hit when the first modern ‘three points seat belt’ got invented by the Americans Roger W. Griswold and Hugh DeHaven, and developed to its modern form by Swedish inventor Nils Bohlin for Swedish manufacturer Volvo who introduced it in 1959 as standard feature in all its cars.

Since 2012 Bolivia has a seatbelt law which should increase the seatbelt use, but the bad thing is that the law does not enforce the use of seat belt to all occupants, only to the driver. In the city of Cochabamba on June 6th 2013, during a police checkpoint, only one (1) in five (5) drivers was wearing their seat belts. Unfortunately, we can say that nowadays this ‘big hit’ does not really apply to the seat belt use of the Bolivians.

In the city of Cochabamba on June 6th 2013, during a police checkpoint, only one (1) in five (5) drivers was wearing their seat belts.

Of course, we all heard the famous excuses: “It is uncomfortable,” “I am only driving around the corner”, “I would rather be thrown out of a car than be stuck in a seatbelt”, and my favorite, “I am a good driver, I do not need to wear one.” Well, you may be a good driver, but there are many situations out of your control such as dangerous weather, bad roads, and most importantly, other drivers that can affect your safety.


Photo: Ximena Noya

Moreover, people using the excuse that “they are just driving around the corner” should realize that 80 percent of traffic accidents happen within a 25-mile radius of a driver’s home and at an average speed of 40 miles an hour, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (“NHTSA”). According to the NHTSA, the most important fact is that wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of fatal injuries up to 50 percent for front seat occupants and up to 75 percent for rear seat occupants. So, why not use it? I went out to the street and asked Cochabambinos whether they used seat belts and if not, why not? I was curious how they thought that we could increase the use of seatbelts. Well, out of those who answered my questionnaire, 38 percent said they use their seatbelt, from which only 20 percent were men. Of the 62 percent who answered “no,” the main reason was they used public transportation. There are no seat belts in most of the trufis, taxi trufis, and buses.

80 percent of traffic accidents happen within a 25-mile radius of their home and at an average speed of 40 miles an hour.

Ms. Castillo says, “I only use my seatbelt when I know there is police control or if I am going to drive on the highway. I generally do not go for long drives so I do not use it.” She is certainly not the only one since that answer is the second most common reason. Another lady says, “I do not need to wear my seat belt because I do not drive, I am only a passenger,” which is the Cochabambinos’ third most common reason not to. Luckily, 38 percent do use their seatbelts for the obvious reasons of security and protection in case of an accident.

Below are the answers to the question...

"How to increase the use of seat belts?"

  • More police controls (and especially check the driver);
  • Organize campaigns to make the public aware of the importance of using their seat belt;
  • High fines for people who do not use seat belts;
  • More road safety education;
  • More road signs reminding drivers and passengers to use their seat belts;
  • Advertisement in the media (use of television, radio, internet, etc.)

A pretty remarkable thing for me was that almost everybody thought it was very important to enforce the use of seat belts of the drivers while few people thought it was important to reinforce the use of seat belts by other passengers. This is something to think about because rear seat passengers are the most vulnerable to injury in a car accident.

The most important fact is that wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of fatal injuries up to 50 percent for frontseat occupants and up to 75 percent for rear seat occupants.

All in all, it is very important to implement changes regarding seat belts in public transportation. It is the main way people in Cochabamba move around and will absolutely decrease the amount of fatal accidents.

Black Doves
Modernity, which appears in the twentieth century, is what opened the door to greater sexual liberty. Product of the policies of liberal governments, affecting the separation between state and church, - which led to a loss of power of the priests in life and education of the youth - started two important processes which had a big impact on the conceptions linked to sexuality. First of all, the implementation of regulations made to regulate sexual female labor and, second, the claims of women for more respect, including respect for their bodies.
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