The Safety Behind Seat Belts
By: Emma Carpenter | SADD National Student Leadership Council
When you get in a vehicle, what is the first thing you should do? That’s right…buckle your seat belt! Wearing your seat belt is one of the safest choices you can make. According to the National Safety Council, seat belts have saved the lives of over 374,276 lives since 1975. As the years pass by, usage of these safety devices increases, right along with the number of lives saved. Statistics show that in 2019, seat belt use peaked at an all-time high of 90.7%. This is incredible news, but our work is not done yet. With a goal of zero lives lost to roadway deaths in mind, buckling up is a key first step to take before you even hit the roadway to do your part in reducing crash injuries and fatalities.
Seat belts drastically improve the chances of crash survival. However, it is not enough to only wear it – you have to wear it correctly. Putting the strap below your arm or behind your back is a dangerous decision to make since buckling up correctly is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash. Do yourself a favor and put it on correctly, with the lap belt resting across your hips and the shoulder belt across the middle of your chest, away from your neck. If a crash were to occur, NHTSA has found that these proper resting places for your safety belt would be best for withstanding crash forces.
Even if your vehicle is equipped with airbags, wearing your seat belt is still necessary. The purpose of airbags is not to replace seat belts, but to work with them to provide a top-notch safety experience. In fact, without your seat belt on, the force of the airbag can lead to serious injury or death. It’s a simple equation: seat belts + airbags = safety. Without wearing your seat belt, you are at risk of being ejected from your vehicle in a crash, which is almost always lethal.
In the event of a crash, three types of collisions will occur: vehicle collision, human collision, and internal collision. The vehicular collision is the first to occur, where the vehicle itself crashes into another object. In this collision, damage to the vehicle happens as it begins to stop.
Next, there is a second collision that occurs, known as the human collision. When this takes place, the individuals inside the vehicle are still moving at the traveling speed of the vehicle toward the point of impact. Without safety belt restraints, you will collide with the vehicle interior or window. However, with your seat belt on during the human collision, the seat belt will meet the outside force, keeping you restrained. When you wear your seat belt properly, you are essentially saving yourself from the severity of a human collision.
The third and final collision is the internal collision, where the internal organs of the body move toward the point of impact and hit other organs, bones, and the skull. If you are involved in a car crash, even a minor one, it is important to get a thorough check-up with your physician. Even if you do not show signs of injury on the outside of your body, bruising, tearing, or bleeding could happen internally.
Did you know that most crashes happen within twenty-five miles from your home? It does not matter if you are going down the street or a hundred miles down the road, you must buckle your seat belt to lower your risk of injury or fatality. Without clicking your seat belt before putting the car in drive, you are putting yourself at risk for potentially fatal consequences. I do not let my vehicle move until I am buckled up, along with anyone else in the vehicle. Properly buckling up is what will keep you and your passengers safe and secure in a moving vehicle. Be a role model. Wear your seat belt – every ride, every time.