Porn for the Grim Reaper is people who don’t wear their seat belts.

Thankfully, most people these days have enough sense to buckle up. If someone is riding with me and doesn’t strap in, I immediately tell them to do so, and not just because of the constant, annoying dinging sound my car makes until they do.

To me, seat belts are not optional. It was not always this way, and in fact it hasn’t been that long since such a safety measure was met with indifference by many of us.

I’m a child of the 1980s, back before buckling up was a widespread law. Much of my youth was spent “riding naked,” as I like to call it, because I feel naked if I’m not wearing a seat belt.

When I was in kindergarten, my parents had one of those big multi-row passenger vans. Sometimes the back seat would be taken out, so my two sisters and I would ride back there and play the “fall game.”

That’s where you stand up in the back of the van while Dad is driving and let the laws of physics take over whenever he hit the brakes or punched the gas. And my father being an all-gas-and-brakes kind of guy, it was a lot of fun.

We also rode around in the backs of pickup trucks. This was quite common in the South back then, and it’s not unusual even today to see someone lounging in a truck bed on a country road.

But I remember us three Locke children riding in the back of my dad’s little Isuzu pickup on the way to a Jackson Mets baseball game. Just cruising down the interstate, the wind in our hair and much larger vehicles zipping past us.

In my dad’s defense, there wasn’t enough room for all three of us in the cab. And further in his defense, he grew up in a time when lots of vehicles didn’t even have seat belts. Yeah, he’s pretty old.

Lots of folks used to believe that it was safer to not wear a seat belt. Most of us have been disabused of that notion, but there are still a few idiots who cling to it. There’s a lot of overlap in the Venn diagram of those people and anti-vaxxers.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Americans buckled up at a rate of 90.7% in 2019. In 2017, 47% of passenger vehicle occupants killed in accidents were not restrained.

Buckling up can reduce your risk of dying in a crash by 50% or more.

You can’t argue with facts, although lots of people like to anyway. See: any political talk show.

I’m glad I didn’t know these seat belt numbers when I was a kid, because I had enough things to be scared of, like the Russians dropping a nuke on us.

Nowadays, I – the kid who happily rode down I-55 in the back of a pickup – get livid when I see someone driving along with kids who are clearly not buckled in.

Old Mr. Death, on the other hand, loves that sort of thing.

BRAD LOCKE is senior sports writer for the Daily Journal. Contact him on Twitter @bradlocke or via email at brad.locke@journalinc.com.

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