Beware of providing too many seat belts

Most of us now wear seat belts when we get into a car. It took some time, but even passengers riding in the back now seem to put them on automatically.

The evidence I found on the web shows that seat belts reduce the risk of fatalities and serious injuries. I suspect that air bags made the statistics even better, as did ABS and other safety systems now generally accepted as standard on a modern car.

However, there appears to be some evidence also that drivers feel safer in their cars today and as a result drive faster or more aggressively. It would be difficult to get clear results as the other safety factors muddy the data as do factors like better roads and generally better cars, but judging by the antics of some of my driving comrades out there, aggression is a problem.

The impact of seat belts and other safety factors on driver behaviour could impact the resulting fatalities and injuries for people not in the car. One major study I read (http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/olin_center/papers/pdf/341.pdf) shows that non-occupant fatalities declined considerably less than the occupant fatalities, which brings me nicely to the purpose of this blog.

As we increase our risk warnings and put all kinds of policies about and regulatory statements on our websites, we feel safer. If someone is FSA (or these days FCA) authorised, it provides a (false) sense of security. We must remember that every institution bailed out by the government was FSA authorised at the very highest level.

Take virtually all banks. They were and continue to be heavily scrutinized by the FSA or FCA and the Bank of England and their foreign equivalents. So we all felt safe, and we may have been at a certain level. This is unless you put your money into an Icelandic bank, lots of money into a Cypriot bank. Even if you put your money into RBS, your deposits may have been safe but your tax pounds were not. You, your children and probably your grandchildren will be paying for the impact of these ‘seat belts’.

A major supermarket chain recently had to withdraw bags of peanuts from their shelves because they did not have a label stating ‘may contain nuts’. If we cannot see that peanuts are nuts, who is the nut? Probably the other FSA (the food one) which has some rule about labeling food with nuts.

The daftness of some of our regulations I will leave to one side, but in our own organisations we need to be careful not to fall for the ‘seat belt syndrome’. I am always astounded that in many washroom facilities I frequent there are signs by the washbasins stating ‘water may be hot’. That is the main purpose of hot water, so why the label?

The result is a plethora of labels everywhere warning us and taking away our own responsibility. Staff needs to be trained to remain sensible – just because they are given a seat belt, does not mean they should be driving faster. They still need to take their own responsibility for their actions and their speed.

As managers the same applies to us. Just because you have a FSA (or even a FCA) license, does not mean you should be doing stupid things dear bankers. The seatbelt reduces the impact of the accident on the wearer, not the accident itself.

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