How come we marvel at the recklessness of taxi cabs as they whiz past us, but inside them we feel completely safe?
Jerry Seinfeld wants some answers.
“When you’re in Manhattan, for some reason you don’t get scared no matter how fast the guy goes,” Seinfeld points out in his 1999 stand-up special “I’m Telling You for the Last Time.” “Well, he’s driving fast and recklessly…but he’s a professional.”
There’s some scary truth in Seinfeld’s jest.
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for Americans age 30 and younger. In 2013, the year with the most recent data available, some 2.31 million people were injured in a collision, most of which involved passenger vehicles and trucks.
Though data on taxi-related collisions are hard to come by, in 2009, New York taxis were reportedly involved in 4,093 accidents resulting in just over 1,500 minor to moderate injuries.
Thankfully, we have seatbelts, which cut our risk for injury in half. But only if we use them.
While people use their seatbelt nearly 90% of the time in their daily lives, in New York City cabs that rate plummets to just 43%. In the 2009 data, only 41% of people who sustained injuries were wearing a seatbelt.
Even more startling, based on surveys conducted in the backseats of taxi cabs, the Taxi and Limousine Commission learned that 46% of people who don’t buckle up in cabs still use their seatbelt in their own cars.
The theory Seinfeld proposes — that we feel invincible because we’re in the hands of a professional — seems dead-on.
But as kids learn early on (and apparently forget as they grow up) is that cars don’t need to be speeding to cause injury. The majority of traffic accidents in the city take place at speeds lower than 30 miles per hour. At that speed, the force of impact equates to a fall from a three-story building.
Even if New Yorkers don’t want to buckle up, soon they may have no choice.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration recently proposed new laws as part of the Vision Zero plan that require all passengers in the front seat of taxi cabs to wear a seatbelt. Children under 16 would be required no matter where they sit.
If caught violating the rule, passengers could face a fine of up to $US100 — a far smaller price than getting your nose broken in a crash.
You can check out Seinfeld’s entire bit below:
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.