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RYAN BAKKEN: Too manly for seat belts?

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Men are stubborn. The testosterone and rebellious streak make us that way.

Grand Forks County men, especially those who drive pickups, apparently are even more mule-headed than average.

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That’s the only explanation that can be drawn from the North Dakota Department of Transportation’s survey of seat belt use in 2013.

Please brake for a few statistics:

  • Nationally, the seat belt usage rate is 86 percent.
  • In North Dakota, it’s 78 percent.
  • In Grand Forks County, it’s 70 percent.
  • And, for Grand Forks County men who drive pickups, it’s 65 percent.

Sorry, but there are no seat belt stats about tattooed men with huge biceps who drive pickups with ear-splitting sound systems, although we have a pretty good idea of where they’d fall on the seat belt-buckling scale, don’t we?

We also have a hunch about seat-belt usage by men who drive vehicles the size of halftracks.

Apparently, not wearing seat belts is the rebellious and manly man thing to do. Men don’t like to be told what to do. They’re rebels.

Many adults learned their lessons from their children coming home from kindergarten, where they were brainwashed by their teachers to spread the gospel of seat belts. We were trained quickly to buckle up, especially if our cherubs came home saying they didn’t want mommy or daddy to die.

That’s a rather persuasive argument, although it’s not as effective when voiced by a public service announcement instead of your first-born.

If you have no cherubs to change your thinking, here are a few other statistics by the National Safety Council that might do the trick:

  • Seat belts saved more than 75,000 lives from 2004 to 2008.
  • Forty-two percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2007 were unbelted.
  • With 90 percent seat belt usage nationally, 1,600 additional lives could be saved every year

Because I never have driven a pickup, I’m not seat-belt intolerant. In fact, I spent much of my adult life driving a turquoise Mercury Mystique, which stomped out any idea of being a manly man. I may have been more of a rebel if I steered an F-150. Or an Avalanche. Or even a go-kart, compared to the nerdy Mystique.

The solution is clear. Pull Mystiques from junkyards and make them mandatory. That’s enough to drain the testosterone from any man, no matter his rebellious bent.

With male drivers properly neutered, seat belt usage should soar.

Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1125; or send e-mail torbakken@gfherald.com.

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