This is a tricky topic. While the vast majority of studies still prove that wearing your seat belt is one of the best ways to protect yourself in a vehicle, everyone knows of someone who will swear blind that the only reason they emerged from a car accident unscathed is because they were unencumbered by a seat belt. Admittedly, there are always exceptions that prove the rule, but there shouldn’t be a debate when it comes to this issue – if you’re in a vehicle, strap in!
Here are eight reasons why…
Reason #1: Passengers in a vehicle who are not wearing a seat belt can become projectiles during an accident. Unbuckled passengers can very easily be ejected through the front, rear or side windows, resulting in death.
Reason #2: Passengers in the rear seat of an automobile, who use both lap and shoulder safety belts are 44% more likely to survive in crash. The percentage increases to 73% for rear seat passengers in vans or SUV vehicles.
Reason #3: It’s the law. If you're caught not wearing one, you could find yourself facing expensive fines and consequences.
Reason #4: Air bags are much more effective when the driver and passengers are wearing their seat belts. If you're not wearing your seat belt, then your body will most likely not remain in the position in which the airbag can protect you.
Reason #5: It restrains the strongest parts of the body. Restraints are designed to contact your body at its strongest parts. For an older child and adult, these parts are the hips and shoulders, which is where the seat belt should be strapped.
Reason #6: It spreads out any force from the collision. Lap-and-shoulder belts spread the force of the crash over a wide area of the body. By putting less stress on any one area, they can help you avoid serious injury. A shoulder strap also helps keep your head and upper body away from the dashboard, steering wheel, and other hard interior parts of the automobile should you stop suddenly or be hit by another vehicle.
Reason #7: It helps the body to slow down. What is it that causes injury? A quick change in speed. Seat belts help extend the time it takes for you to slow down in a crash.
Reason #8: It protects your brain and spinal cord. A seat belt is designed to protect these two critical areas. Head injuries may be hard to see immediately, but they can be deadly. Likewise, spinal cord injuries can have serious consequences.
How to buckle up correctly
Adjusting your seat belt properly is a must. Getting the right fit is as important as wearing it. The strap that goes across your lap should fit snugly over your hips and upper thigh area. If the belt rides up on the stomach, it could cause serious injuries in a crash.
Shoulder belts should rest securely across your chest and shoulders between your breasts. Don’t ever let the strap fall across your neck or face and never place the strap under your arms or behind your back. Any one of these positions can cause serious injury.
4 rules for infants and children
Children are not small adults – they need specialised protection in a moving vehicle. Their skeletal structure is different – age, height, and weight determine the safest way for a child to travel.
Here’s how to select the right option for your child:
Rule for rear-facing child safety seat. Children under the age of one, and those who weigh less than 20 pounds (9 kgs) should sit in rear-facing, child safety seats approved by the standards body. The seats should be placed in the backseat of the car.
Rule for forward-facing child safety seat. Children older than the age of one, who weigh more than 20 pounds (9 kgs) should ride in forward-facing child safety seats. The seat should be placed in the rear of the vehicle until the child reaches the upper weight or height limit of the particular seat. Typically, a child will outgrow a safety seat around the age of four, and once they weigh about 40 pounds (18 kgs).
Rule for booster seat. Children four years’ old and more, who weigh over 40 pounds (18 kgs) should ride in booster seats. A child can safely progress to a seat belt when the belt fits properly across the upper thighs and chest. This is usually around the age of eight, or when they are at least 4’ 9’’ (1.5 metres) tall.
Rule for seat belt. When children outgrow their booster seats, they can use seat belts, but they should still sit in the back of the vehicle. All children should be riding in the backseat of the car until they are at least 13 years’ old.