Seatbelts and Social Distancing


From the Fire Chief

Hello Fort Myers Beach, San Carlos Island and surrounding communities.

Navigating a world-wide pandemic is like nothing we have experienced. Like you, I am receiving updated information constantly, sometimes at a rate far beyond what I can absorb. I am becoming a little more adept in the task of social distancing, though a term not in my vocabulary until recently.

Sometimes instructions like social distancing require a little more clarification. Why is this so critical, what does this mean, and what does it not mean? As with many alterations to our normal life, it can be tough to see the benefits and dangers to ourselves and others.

When it comes to the critical task of creating social distance, being a little bit of a safety extremist myself, the notion of seatbelts came to mind. I am sure you have heard the statement, “My choice not to wear a seatbelt is a personal one and does not affect others.” In public safety, we know that this certainly is not true. In fact, if just one occupant is not wearing a seatbelt during a motor vehicle collision, other occupants’ risk of injury or death is five-times greater. Unfortunately, the unrestrained passenger is the most dangerous projectile in a crash. Just ask my kids, their Dad makes them watch frightening videos to reinforce this message regularly. If you need copies for your teenager just let me know.

So what’s the correlation between seatbelts and social distancing? Just like the impact that not wearing a seatbelt can have on others in the same vehicle, the lack of social distancing can have a catastrophic impact on others, an impact we may not even realize.

In this challenging time we have a great opportunity to make adjustments in our behavior, and those adjustments can change a life. It could be your life, the life of your family, even the life of someone you don’t even know. It could also be the life of our emergency responders dedicated to protecting you each day.

Distance, Not Isolation

In addition, there is one clear behavior that social distancing is not. Social distancing is not isolation. We are blessed to live in an age where technology allows a coffee chat or opportunity for group interaction, without leaving your home. This may be “old hat” to some, while unexplored territory to others, but technology has provided an abundant opportunity for social interaction.

Social isolation can have a destructive influence on our mental health. We are a social culture and thrive on our meaningful relationships with the community around us. The Fort Myers Beach community is such a remarkable place because of our vibrant desire to be with others and enjoy paradise. This aspiration can and should continue during social distancing for our individual health and the health of those we love, it just needs to look a little different. Just like refraining from wearing a seatbelt can affect more people than just you, isolation can do the same.

Matthew Love FMBFD Fire ChiefAt times it is difficult to see through the dark cloud of our current challenge. We talk about silver linings, but if you are hurting, concerned about employment or your business, or you are genuinely missing the enjoyment of this beautiful place we live, the silver can be tough to see. To help, let me share with you that right now so many families are connecting like they never have. Families are sitting around the kitchen table for dinner, something they may have not done for years. Children are playing board games with their parents and siblings, couples are staying up late in conversation, and phone calls to long-time friends are occurring like never before.

Stay Home

It is tough to find hope amongst challenges, yet these glimpses of our community’s spirit and hope are heartwarming. One of my absolute favorite quotes is, “Maintaining hope comes from seeing the potential in every situation and staying positive despite the circumstances.” With this, and in sincere love and hope for our community, my humble request of you is not to wait to be told to stay home, go ahead and make the personal decision to do so. Make this choice not only for you, but for every soul you may encounter. Just like wearing your seatbelt, this decision will impact so many more than just one life.

Finally, while you are executing this tough, but caring decision, look through the contact list on your phone. Find one name that stands out. Maybe it’s a name from quite some time ago. Maybe it’s an unreconciled relationship. Maybe it’s someone who misunderstood social distancing for social isolation and desperately needs your call. Change a life during this tough time and add health to our community in new ways, new ways we can celebrate when the day comes for those hugs we all miss so much.

As your Fire Chief I assure you the members of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department are taking every action available to protect and guard you. I thank you for taking every action available to protect and guard our community, from wearing seatbelts to social distancing.


By Matthew Love
FMBFD Fire Chief

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