Who’s at risk?
Safety belts are the most effective protection in vehicle crashes. A crash actually consists of three collisions. The first is when the car hits something and comes to an abrupt stop. The second collision occurs when unbelted occupants continue to travel at the vehicle’s original speed and they hit a part of the vehicle such as the steering wheel or windshield. Some are ejected out of the vehicle. Safety belts help restrain occupants from hitting internal parts of the vehicle and from being ejected. In fact, NHTSA found that only 1% of passenger vehicle occupants wearing restraints in fatal crashes were totally ejected. Of those who were ejected, 74% were killed.
The third collision is the internal organs moving at the original travel speed until they hit other organs or the skeletal system. These internal injuries can be severe and fatal. Properly fastened safety belts distribute forces from the crash across larger and stronger areas of the body to help decrease the potential for injury. Of passenger vehicle occupants in fatal crashes in 2003, 73% of people who were restrained survived, but of those who were not restrained, only 42% survived.
Despite this life-saving measure, not everyone buckles up. Pickup truck occupants are significantly less likely to wear safety belts than people in cars, vans and SUVs. Teens and young adults are also less likely to wear safety belts. Americans living in rural areas are at greater risk – the motor vehicle crash fatality rate in rural areas is more than double the rate in urban areas.
- Drivers and all passengers should always buckle up, for every ride, every time – even for very short trips.
- Children should remain in a safety seat with full harness as long as possible, at least until they reach 40 pounds.
- For children between 40-80 pounds, a belt-positioning booster seat should be used to help the adult lap and shoulder belt fit the child’s size. The adult lap and shoulder belt alone will not fit most children until they are at least 4’9" tall and weigh about 80 pounds.
- All occupants should wear safety belts properly, and never put the shoulder belt under the arm or behind the back.
Content used with permission from the National Safety Council, a membership organization dedicated to protecting life and promoting health.
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This content was last modified on: 08/11/2008