California is one of the many states in which police can stop vehicles if they suspect motorists of failing to use their seatbelts. But for classic and vintage car owners, the threat of being slapped with an expensive ticket for seat belt noncompliance is a non-issue.
This is because cars built before 1964 are exempt from the federal law that requires all vehicles to come equipped with factory-installed seat belts.
Although some safety-conscious classic car owners voluntarily install modern seat belts in their pre-’64 vehicles, many feel that a modification of this nature would compromise the originality and authenticity of their nostalgic ride. “If you owned a car from the ’30s and wanted to win a car show, you wouldn’t put seat belts in it, because you could lose points from the judges,” explains McKeel Hagerty of Classic Insurance, an agency that insures vintage vehicles.
While most classic cars are not required to have seatbelts, the fact still remains that motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death and injury. The chances of walking away from a crash unharmed are much lower when the occupants of the vehicle are not wearing seat belts.
Getting behind the wheel of any car without putting a seatbelt on is a huge safety risk. Now consider that most vintage cars lack the standard safety features that we take for granted in modern cars, such as air bags, anti-lock brakes, stability control and reinforced crumple zones and you have a potential recipe for disaster on the road.
The classic car scene is an enduringly popular cultural phenomenon in California, and the passion that car enthusiasts have for their vintage rides is not likely to lessen in the near future. Accordingly, the inherent safety risks associated with driving a vintage vehicle are as pertinent as ever. As a new generation of car enthusiasts hit the road in their classic rides, bringing attention to the dangers of driving without a seatbelt may help save lives.
Source: Los Angeles Times, Classic Cars Pose Special Risks for Drivers, Jeanne Wright, December 12, 2001.