How Effective Are Seat Belts at Preventing Serious Injuries?

seat belts

Despite the widely accepted fact that seat belts save lives, it bears repeating, particularly since buckling up can reduce your risk of serious, and fatal injuries by approximately 50 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Even a relatively minor car accident could have tragic consequences if you and any other passenger in your vehicle are not wearing a seatbelt. While wearing a seatbelt is the smart and responsible thing to do, it is also the law, which means that motorists could face legal consequences if they caused a car accident and were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision. If you are involved in a car accident, do not hesitate to contact a highly skilled car accident lawyer who can protect your legal rights and secure the financial compensation you deserve.

What Facts Should All Motorists Know About Seat Belts?

Seatbelts have been a standard safety feature in all automobiles since 1968, and they remain one of the most effective things you can use to prevent injuries and fatalities in the event of a serious car accident. The following are some additional facts that make seat belts such an important safety feature, and one that all motorists should use whenever they are riding in a car as a driver or a passenger:

  • Seat belts save lives. According to one study, wearing a seat belt while riding in the front seat of a passenger vehicle can reduce your risk of serious injuries by 50 percent, and fatal injuries by 45 percent. If you wear a seatbelt while riding in a light truck, you can reduce the risk of serious injuries by 65 percent, and fatal injuries by 60 percent.
  • Airbags are not meant to replace seat belts. People often assume that their vehicle’s airbag will protect them in the event of an accident. However, if you are not wearing a seatbelt when the airbag deploys, you could hit it with extreme force, causing serious injuries. In extreme cases, the injuries could be fatal.
  • Seat belts must be worn properly. Motorists must keep the following safety guidelines in mind when buckling up:
    • The lap belt and shoulder belt should be secured across the pelvis and rib cage since they are able to withstand the force of the impact better than other parts of the body.
    • The shoulder belt should be placed across the middle of your chest, away from the neck.
    • The lap belt should rest across the hips, not the stomach.
    • Do not put the shoulder belt behind your back or under your arm under any circumstances.
  • The seat belt should fit properly. Before purchasing the vehicle, make sure that the seat belts fit. If you require a larger seat belt, the car manufacturer may be able to provide you with a seat belt extender. If you drive an older vehicle that is only equipped with lap belts, find out if you can have the car retrofitted with a lap/shoulder belt.
  • Make sure that children are properly secured. Seat belts are used in conjunction with the car seat that is recommended based on the child’s age, weight, and height. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following:
    • Rear-facing child safety seat: The AAP recommends that children remain in this type of seat for as long as possible, or until they reach the maximum height and weight restrictions that are recommended by the manufacturer.
    • Forward-facing child safety seat: Once the child has outgrown the rear-facing car seat, he or she should be placed in this type of seat with a harness until the child reaches the maximum height and weight limit.
    • Booster seat: When the child exceeds the height and weight requirement for the front-facing seat, he or she can use a belt-positioning booster seat.
    • Seat belt: Once the child has outgrown the booster seat, he or she can start using a regular seatbelt. All children under the age of 13 should remain in the backseat with their seat belt buckled whenever they are riding in a vehicle.
  • Know the right way to wear a seatbelt if you are pregnant. Doctors recommend that you wear a seat belt throughout your entire pregnancy. Adjust the seat so that there is enough distance between your belly and the steering wheel. The shoulder belt should be positioned away from your neck and across your chest, and the lap belt should be secured below your belly and across your hips and pelvic bone. Never place the seat belt over or on top of your belly, and do not place the shoulder belt under your arm or behind your back.
  • Teach your teen drivers the importance of wearing a seatbelt. If you have a newly licensed teen driver in the family, make sure that you set a good example and always wear your seat belt. Research shows that children are more likely to buckle up if their parents do so.

What Are the Main Benefits of Seat Belts?

There are many benefits to wearing a seatbelt, some of which are common sense while others are less widely known. The following are examples of some of the most common benefits of wearing a seatbelt, whether you are behind the wheel or a passenger in the front or back seat:

  • Reduces injuries and fatalities. According to the NHTSA, seatbelts save approximately 13,000 lives each year in this country. When a vehicle occupant is not wearing a seatbelt at the time of an accident, the force of the impact can cause the victim to be thrown out of the vehicle, which almost always results in fatalities. This does not happen if the vehicle occupants are wearing a seat belt.
  • Minimize the severity of injuries and costly medical expenses. Serious car accidents could cause a range of injuries, particularly if the vehicles involved were traveling at a high speed. However, when the vehicle occupants are wearing their seatbelt, the injuries are often far less severe. For example, if a vehicle crashes into your car while traveling at a high speed, severe whiplash can cause serious brain and spinal cord injuries from the sudden stopping. Seat belts minimize the severity of injuries by reducing the impact of the whiplash. In addition, the expenses associated with the injuries will likely be much less.
  • You will be complying with the law. It is against the law to drive without wearing a seatbelt. In Maryland, all passengers in the front and back seats are also required to wear a seatbelt at all times. If any passenger in your vehicle is not wearing a seatbelt, you could receive a traffic ticket or be required to pay a fine. If you are responsible for causing an accident, and you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision, you could lose your driver’s license.
  • Maintain insurance premiums. If you are in a car accident or are pulled over for some reason while not wearing a seatbelt, your insurance company may increase your premium or cancel your coverage altogether. By wearing a seatbelt at all times, you will be able to maintain your current insurance premium.

What Types of Injuries Do Seat Belts Protect Against?

Car accidents can cause a wide range of injuries, from minor cuts and scrapes to broken bones, internal bleeding, and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). The more serious the accident, the more severe the injuries are likely to be. Seat belts are very effective at protecting motorists if they are involved in a serious collision. Today’s vehicles are equipped with three-point seat belts which distribute the force of the impact across the pelvis and the upper body. When worn correctly, seat belts can prevent, or reduce the severity of common injuries that are often caused by car accidents, including whiplash, back injuries, concussions, and broken bones. Facial fractures, including broken jaws, fractured nose, broken teeth and severe facial lacerations, and other head injuries can also occur if the driver, other passengers in the vehicle are not wearing a seatbelt, and there is no airbag. These injuries can be prevented or are likely to be much less severe if all occupants in the vehicle are wearing a seat belt at all times.

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Car Accidents

If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident, you are urged to contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. Seat belts are extremely effective at preventing, and reducing the severity of injuries, but only if they are used correctly and consistently. We will assist you with every step of the claims process and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.