The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

June 1, 2013

It may not be cool, but it is smart to buckle up

By Lynn Saternow

---- — EDITOR’S NOTE: Nine years ago I wrote a column that every teenage driver needs to read, especially at this time of year when we often see accidents and deaths involving young people who just graduated from high school. Following is that column:

Here are some thoughts from a guy who got a laugh when he read about the new campaign to make seat belts cool for teens.

Hey, boys and girls, I know where you’re coming from on this one. Man, nobody wants to put on those seat belts.

They clash with the colors in your shirt and it’s just not cool. If your buddies see you wearing a seat belt, you’re going to get some serious dissing.

But here’s some advice from a guy who raised two boys through teenage years and was probably considered to be an uncool dad at times when I harped on them about wearing seat belts.

The main thing when you’re a teenager is to take a serious look at the degrees of coolness. Just where do seat belts rank on this?

You know what’s even less cool than wearing a seat belt?

Getting hit square in the face with an airbag while you’re jerking forward at 65 miles per hour and it’s coming at you at more than 100 mph.

Ouch! Those sirens can hurt your ears when the ambulance is rushing you to the hospital. Then they put you in one of those blue robes that tie in the back so your butt hangs out. And they stick tubes in your arms. No coolness here.

It’s so cool when that seat belt holds you in place and the air bag doesn’t hurt much. And it’s even cooler to use your cell phone and have your dad tell you, “Don’t worry, insurance will cover the car. I’m just glad you’re OK.”

You know what’s so not cool?

Having your body blast through the back window of the car, shot like a rocket during a crash. I have to tell you: All that blood can really mess up your “do.”

You know what’s uncool to the max?

Having your head bouncing on the pavement. Your skull breaks into 100 little pieces and your eyeball falls out of the socket. Dude, that is so uncool.

It’s also very uncool when you are thrown out the door of the car as it rolls over during a wreck. When all that metal crashes down on your chest and breaks your ribs and you can’t breathe — it is so uncool.

And maybe you thought it was cool when you boys irritated your dad by getting an earring, suddenly becoming the daughter he never wanted. But you know what’s really cool?

Walking up on the stage when you graduate from high school and seeing the tears well up in your parents’ eyes because they are so proud of you.

On the other hand, you know what’s uncool?

The tears welling up in the eyes of your mom and dad as they cry themselves to sleep at night because you were too damn inconsiderate to put on a seat belt and you foolishly threw away your life.

You know what’s cool?

Getting together with your classmates at various graduation parties. Man, was that the time of your life or what?

You know what’s not so cool?

Your classmates sobbing as they file past your casket because you didn’t wear your seat belt. I guarantee you that when that happens not one single kid will think you were cool because you didn’t buckle up.

You know what’s cool?

When you turn to your friend and say: “Hey, peabrain. Put on your seat belt or get out. I don’t want blood all over the inside of my car; I just cleaned it.”

My heart goes out to every parent who has lost a child in a car wreck. And I apologize for any pain this column may bring in stirring bad memories. But maybe, just maybe, one kid will be forced to read this by his parents and realizes how big a fool you are when you don’t wear a seat belt.

No, even though it’s the law to wear a seat belt, some people think it’s not cool. But it’s way cooler than everything else that can happen if you don’t wear one.

Staying alive is as cool as it gets.

The Herald’s Lynn Saternow writes this column each week for the Opinion Page. He can be reached at