Strap Yourself In!


Spring is coming! And for many of us that means vacations and road trips, which means more time behind the windshield. Which brings us to this week topic: seat belt usage. When you get into your car, truck, or van, do you use your seat belt? If not, why? From the statistics on the benefits of wearing your seatbelt to the laws requiring use within the U.S., there are plenty of reasons to reconsider. 

All states, aside from New Hampshire, require seat belt usage, and fines for non-compliance can be as high $150.00. That aside, all our project sites require their use 100% of the time. Also worthy of mention is, as of August 2018, 16 states allow the "safety belt defense," which can reduce damages collected by someone in a crash if the person had failed to buckle up, according to the IIHS. With this in place the likelihood of increased personal medical bills after a wreck is increased significantly. 

There are many statistics from countless sources, however, for the purposes of this small toolbox talk we will gather our facts primarily from: American Automobile Association (AAA), Center for Disease Control (CDC) and National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. It is a common fact noted by all the agencies above that motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among those aged 1-54 in the U.S. For adults and older children (who are big enough for seat belts to fit properly), seat belt use is the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes. Yet millions do not buckle up on every trip. The chances of surviving an automobile wreck increase by over 25% when you are correctly wearing your seatbelt. 


2017 Injuries and Fatalities 

A total of 23,708 passenger vehicle occupants died in 2017, 23 percent fewer than in 1975. As pickups and SUVs have become more popular, the distribution of vehicle types in fatal crashes has changed. Car occupant deaths have declined 46 percent since 1975, while pickup occupant deaths have risen 20 percent and SUV occupant deaths are more than 10 times as high. 

Lower gas prices and increased motor-vehicle mileage combined with risky activities like speeding and driving while texting is proving deadly for American driver. 

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions ask about seat belts: 

1. What difference will a seat belt make in a serious crash? 

It could spell the difference between life and death. Your chances of surviving a serious crash are three to four times greater if you’re wearing a lap and shoulder belt, regardless of the speed. 

2. Should pregnant women wear safety belts? 

Yes. An expectant mother should always wear a safety belt low on her abdomen, below the unborn child. There are safety belt enhancements on the market that can help to reduce the exposure to the unborn child from the seatbelts. 

3. Why should I wear a seat belt on short trips at low speeds? 

That’s statistically when most crashes happen. Some statistics show that eighty percent of deaths and injuries happen at speeds under 40mph. Seventy five percent of deaths and injuries occur less than 25 miles from home. 

4. If I wear a seat belt I won’t be able to escape from the car! 

This is a popular misconception that seat belts prevent you from escaping from a burning or submerged vehicle. Less than 0.5% of all accidents involve car fires or water. Seat belts can help you to remain conscious, so you can exit faster. 

5. My shoulder strap hits me at an uncomfortable spot. How can I make it more comfortable? 

In many cars, all you need to do is pull the belt off your shoulder just enough to relieve the pressure (driver’s side). The belt will catch (much like a window shade), and give you some slack. For the passenger side you may have to get a pad form the auto parts store to make the belt more comfortable. However, the following practice should be avoided: Avoid putting a shoulder belt under your arm or behind you in an attempt to make it more comfortable. This greatly reduces its effectiveness and could cause injury. 

6. I can stop myself with my hands, I don’t need to wear a seat belt. 

The force generated in a head-on collision in a vehicle is about the same force as a person falling from a 3-story building. 

7. Will a seat belt protect my child? 

Yes, if your youngster’s too big or too old to ride in a safety seat. The general rule is that a child outgrows the safety seat when he or she reaches 4 years or weighs over 40 pounds. You should see to it that your child buckles up (or gets buckled up) every time they are in your vehicle. 

8. If airbags are in a vehicle, do I still need to buckle the seat belt? 

Yes. Air bags are not a substitute for seat belts. They are meant to be used together. Since airbags offer protection in frontal crashes only, seat belts are needed to protect in rear, side and rollover crashes. 

9. In a crash it’s better to be thrown free of the car. 

You are much more likely to be killed if you’re thrown out of the car. A buckled safety belt can keep you in the vehicle, protected by the surrounding metal. 

10. I don’t buckle up because I am a great driver. 

You may be, but you’re not the only driver on the road. No one ever believes it will happen to them, but it does. 


Make it a Habit 

While studies show more of us are wearing our seatbelts (US DOT reports 90%) there are those that refrain from buckling and no amount of statistics will convince them otherwise. For those who are opposed to wearing seat-belts what message are you passing to those who are in the vehicle with you, whether it is your children, wife or coworkers.

For more vital information on seat belt use, please see this edition of Wachs Weekly.