RVOD101 Seat Belts: The Life-Saving Habit

(1986, Educational/Short, color)


Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Mommy, why do we live in a gray box?

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:

People have stupid reasons for not wearing seat belts.


Seat belts are for jive turkeys.Why don’t people wear seat belts? Business types can’t spare the time. Soccer moms feel too restricted, and fashion plates don’t want to wrinkle their clothes. Old men can’t manipulate the buckles with their arthritic fingers, and loudmouth mechanics feel that seat belt laws infringe their civil rights. Computer nerds doubt the seat belt’s efficacy. Non-Stereotyped Man (the only one of his kind in the film) would rather be “thrown clear” in the event of an accident. The narrator disproves each of these objections one at a time.

Okay, but what about kids? They’re indestructible right? What if you just hold them on your lap really tightly? Or put them in the back seat? They’ll be safe, won’t they? In response, the film shows us a near-infinite loop of crash test footage featuring diminutive mannequins smashing against dashboards, against windows, through windows, out windows, into walls, into others, into each other and so on. (“Let’s see it five more times to make sure my nightmares stay good and vivid,” says Bill.) The narrator extols the virtues of car seats, providing an exhaustive list of types and places to obtain them.

Interspersed, we see wrecked cars getting pressed into little cubes in the junkyard, still shots of medical equipment, and many, many featureless gray backgrounds.


Yes, the short’s subject matter is remedial and its subjects hopelessly stereotyped—my favorite being the funky Blaxploitation music that kicks in every time the African-American fashion plate appears on screen. But unlike certain prior films, I feel this is intentional; the work of intelligent filmmakers attempting to communicate with morons. Despite the idiocy of the anti-seat belt stances presented, I do not doubt that they are real. Even in these more seat belt-enlightened times, I have heard many of these arguments myself. I’m sure you have too. By outrageously exaggerating the people who make these arguments, the filmmakers hold up a carnival mirror to nature. “When you say things like this,” they tell us, “you really do sound this stupid.” We need to get these guys back to address the admittedly less pressing issue of Youtube commenting.

Oh, and though Seat Belts: The Life Saving Habit is thankfully bloodless, it gets a lot more graphic than the average scare-you-straight safety film by spending the entire middle third of its twenty-minute running time on the vehicular mutilation of child-shaped dummies. I know I’m echoing Bill here, but as a father of young children, I too would like to thank the makers of SBTLSH for last night’s nightmares.

A few favorite comments: when a ridiculously urban black man refuses to buckle up, Bill exclaims, “That’s for jive turkeys!” While the narrator shows that even low speed crashes can be fatal without seat belts, Mike declares, “I drive faster than that in my house.” As the old man querulously complains of arthritis, Kevin says, “If you’re too old to buckle a belt, maybe you shouldn’t be driving.” Throughout, whenever the question of seat belt laws infringing rights is brought up, the riffers urge us to “Vote Ron Paul!” It’s long-ish for a short film and the riffing doesn’t stand out much against its pointed strangeness, but hey, it’s fun to watch.