In the age of backup cameras, lane sensors, and smart cruise control, seat belts are often one of the most underrated safety features in your vehicle. While they might not be as flashy as some of the other stuff, they are essential in keeping you safe in the event of a car accident. It doesn’t seem like much, but that small strip of polyester could be all that lies between you and a fatal car crash.
Crashes Without Seat Belts
The majority of people who are killed in car accidents were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the accident. Drivers and passengers not wearing seat belts are 30 times more likely to be forcefully ejected from the vehicle upon impact, which is fatal nearly every time.
Additionally, if someone is not wearing a seat belt when the airbag deploys, the force of the air bag’s expulsion can result in serious injury and even death in many cases.
How Seat Belts Save Lives
Wearing a seat belt is one of the most important choices you will make when traveling by vehicle. In fact, according to the CDC, wearing a seat belt reduces your risk of fatal injury by 45%.
The three-point design is intended to keep you safe and secure in your seat in the event of an accident. The Y-shaped straps align with two of the most durable parts of our skeletal frame—the pelvis and the rib cage—to aid in safe deceleration of your body, disperse the force of the impact, and greatly reduce the chances of serious injury or death. In tandem with the airbag, a seat belt will prevent your body from a collision with the steering wheel, dashboard, or windshield as well.
In addition to the safety benefits, further advantages of wearing your belt include lowered insurance premiums, avoiding additional medical costs/lost wages due to crash-related injury, and avoiding being ticketed for not observing seat belt laws.
The Right Way to Wear a Seat Belt
While wearing a seat belt is always better than not wearing one, there is a right way to wear it. If your seat belt is worn incorrectly, it can actually put you at additional risk for injuries that would otherwise be avoidable. Listed below are some quick tips on how to ensure your seat belt is being worn correctly.
- Ensure that the straps go over the pelvis and across the center of the ribs. These are the most resilient parts of your body.
- Wear both the lap and shoulder straps correctly; do not wear the shoulder belt behind you or your arm, nor the lap strap under you.
- Do not wear the lap strap across your stomach. In the event of a crash, you risk massive internal damage to internal organs and more.
- Ensure that the shoulder strap does not cut across your neck or below your ribs; doing so will put you at a higher risk for spinal injury, organ injury, and more.
- Use seat belt extenders and adjusters when needed to achieve the best, safest fit. In addition, some older vehicles may need to be retrofitted to adhere to today’s three-point belt system.
Buckling Children and During Pregnancy
Everyone’s body is different, so how we have to wear our seat belts can vary. There are two main groups of people that need extra consideration when it comes to wearing seat belts: children and pregnant individuals.
With children, it is always essential to adhere to safety codes involving car seats and booster seats to ensure that your child is secured as safely as possible, which means that you are using the recommended item to supplement the seat belt’s safety.
Pregnant individuals are encouraged to adjust their seat belts to fit under their bellies and over their chest as normal, which can seem uncomfortable but is the safest for both the unborn baby and the parent. In addition, the NHTSA recommends that pregnant individuals avoid letting their belly touch the steering wheel and instead adjust the seat to accommodate their body.
Saving Lives One Seat Belt at a Time
The main thing to take away from this is that whether you’re just running to the quickie mart for a snack or taking a scenic trip across the state, always wear your seat belt. And if you have experienced a car accident and are seeking legal guidance, we are here to help. In the meantime, buckle up and drive safe out there.