Driver: No Seatbelt. Passenger: Seatbelt

In Russia and Ukraine drivers don’t wear seatbelts. Same holds in many other developing countries.

Assuming cars are equipped with seatbelts (despite not being worn), and that most of the local drivers do not wear them, this scenario is actually ideal for the Western tourist.

You, the rational tourist, promptly buckles up in the taxi. In case there’s a crash, you’ll have some protection. The driver and other drivers, meanwhile, wear no seatbelt, thus reducing the Peltzman Effect which says people respond to safety regulations by acting more recklessly. Drivers who wear seatbelts drive less safely.

So the next time you get in a taxi and the driver says, "Don’t worry, we don’t wear seatbelts here," as the driver said to me in Odessa, Ukraine, just smile and say, "Good". And then buckle up.

4 Responses to Driver: No Seatbelt. Passenger: Seatbelt

  1. ElamBend says:

    This drives me nuts. My girlfriend, from Russia, and her brothers have this cavalier attitude toward seatbelts (or should I say fatalistic).

    I’ve finally gotten my girlfriend to reliably buckle up and that it’s not because I’m trying to tell her what to do, but because I don’t want to be in an accident and be uninjured while she is a bloody mess.

    Her brothers, whom I love like my own, are a harder nut to crack.

  2. Mike says:

    I’ve always felt the drive should be the one to wear a seatbelt. If some how the car spins out of control only the drive will have any chance of correcting the situation… but the driver can’t do that if he is flying around the cabin.

  3. Matt Huebert says:

    Haha just two days ago I was in a Beijing taxi and the driver literally cackled in my face when he saw me put my hand on the seatbelt! Then, smirking all the while, he tried telling me over and over again that I didn’t need it. He pointed with a big grin at his own seatbelt, which was strung around his shoulder and sitting on his lap so that the police would think he was wearing it…

    Unfortunately I don’t see the Peltzman effect applying to the drivers here, because the concept of safety is not yet lodged firmly enough in their heads to affect their behavior one way or the other. I always sit in the front seat of taxis in China because the back seats rarely have seat belts available at all — and the drivers are protected by prison-bar or plexiglass walls which could hardly be more dangerous by design in the event of a collision for anyone sitting unshackled behind them.

  4. Not wearing seatbelts in Russia is actually natural, nobody uses them, you don’t even think about choosing . Experienced drivers may even consider wearing seatbelts a sign of a novice on the road; so, only people with common sense do wear them ignoring this attitude.

    From my experience (I often commute on random cars in Moscow, e.g. drivers who are working as a taxi without any official signs), that is just the case.

    A driver without a seatbelt doesn’t wear one because he thinks he is experienced enough to not crash; he also thinks he can fit his Fiat between those two trucks just fine…

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