Seat belts – again

On the first of February 2008 I sent an email to the Department of Transport at – road.safety@dft.gsi.gov.uk. It said:

“In your press release of 31 January you state: “Seatbelts have prevented an estimated 60,000 deaths and 670,000 serious injuries since 31 January 1983 when seatbelts were made mandatory for drivers and front seat passengers.” The 60,000 statistic has been picked up and widely quoted. I would be grateful if you would provide the source of this statistic. I have posted my reasons for doubting it on my blog at http://john-adams.co.uk/2008/01/31/myth-inflation/ . I will be happy to correct it if you can persuade me that I’ve got it wrong.”

I have yet to receive a reply. The claim in the DfT press release of 60,000 lives and 670,000 serious injuries saved by the seat belt law was widely reported – Google “seatbelts 60000 lives”. The press release was, in itself, a minor bit of myth reinforcement. But this is the way that myths are built. Repetition of an unchallenged falsehood establishes the falsehood. Should any reader of this blog succeed in getting a reply to my question from the Department for transport I would like to hear from you.

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4 pings

  1. James Barlow says:

    Prof Adams,

    It’s a pleasure to find out that you publish a blog. I hadn’t heard about your site until I saw the link at the Adam Smith Institute

    Over the years I’ve bought three copies of your book “Risk”, because whenever I’ve lent it to people the buggers won’t give it back.

  2. Derek Tipp says:

    I came to your site by way of Professor Stott’s site and found your article on seatbelt claims very interesting. Isn’t this so-called “statistic” simply but one example of a whole host of spurious claims made about everything from global warming to the dangers of any food or device etc. We are now so used to reading a never-ending list of “surveys” and other “studies”, that most are dismissed with a shrug.

    Good luck to you in your writing to expose this bogus science.

  3. John A says:

    Your campaign against seat belt wearing has already borne fruit: http://www.stuff.co.nz/4411639a6479.html

  4. Kate Carpenter says:

    I may have misunderstood but I thought that Prof Adams campaign was against compulsion, not against seatbelt wearing? I reserve the right of anyone not to use protective equipment freely available, provided they don’t expect my national insurance to pay for it. Risk taking in normal life = good; risk taking as an abdication of personal social responsibility = bad!

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