Man. Was not expecting seat belts to become such a hot topic last week. But since we’re here, let’s delve into it a bit.
Now, it’s definitely true that seatbelts are almost nonexistent in this comic (notable exception: Joyride, which gave Osman's truck what appears to be a five-point harness), but that’s not as weird as you might think. While racecar drivers have been wearing them since the 1950s, it took quite a long time for seat belts to go mainstream:
…New York became the first state to pass a mandatory seat-belt law, in 1984. Other states soon followed.
While there was already clear evidence seat belts saved lives, these measures faced stiff opposition. A Gallup poll from July 1984 showed that 65% of Americans opposed mandatory belt laws, according to the Los Angeles Times.
…The auto industry actually supported seat-belt requirements, mainly to circumvent legislation that would have mandated airbags.
But the public bristled.
Some people cut the belts out of their cars. Others challenged seat-belt laws in court.
Yikes. So anyway, point being, widespread seat belt use is more recent than you might think. Our dieselpunk pilots probably never even give them a moment’s thought. In fact, there are legitimate in-world reasons why you wouldn’t want belts in your Tournament mech.
To start with, nearly all competition mecha are, like Djalapi, dangerously unsafe homebrewed contraptions, often cobbled together out of discarded military and recreational machinery by amateur mechanics. As you might expect, they are prone to bursting into flames or just plain falling apart in the heat of battle. They are basically walking deathtraps, and most pilots believe that risking a head injury beats getting roasted alive. Thus: no belts.
Similarly, the Tournament Administrative Committee does not want their sporting event to be famous for killing its participants, as that would lower ticket sales. This is demolition sumo, not a death match. Competitors should always be ready to bail out at a moment’s notice.