Recent tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveal minivan backseat passengers have a 46% higher risk of fatal injuries due to seat belts not functioning properly.
Seat belts are a fundamental safety feature in modern vehicles, but in certain situations, they can potentially increase injury risks rather than reduce them. Understanding these scenarios is essential to using seat belts effectively and minimizing potential harm.
Improper seat belt use
One of the primary ways seat belts can increase injury risks is through improper use. Failing to wear a seat belt correctly, such as wearing it too loosely, tucking it behind your back or wearing it across your neck, can lead to more severe injuries during a collision. Proper use is to wear the seat belt snugly across the lap and chest.
The submarining effect occurs when a person wearing a seat belt slides forward under the lap belt during a collision. This can result in injuries to the abdomen, pelvis and spine. To prevent submarining, you must sit back in the seat with your back firmly against the backrest.
Incompatible seat belts
In some cases, seat belts may not be suitable for certain individuals, particularly young children and smaller adults. Not properly adjusting the seat belt to your size and body type can increase the risk of injury during a crash.
Seat belt syndrome
Seat belt syndrome refers to a pattern of injuries that can occur when a seat belt restrains a person during a collision. While seat belts help to prevent ejection from the vehicle, they can cause injuries such as rib fractures, abdominal injuries and damage to internal organs.
Seat belts work in conjunction with airbags to enhance safety. However, in rare cases, the force of an airbag deploying can interact with a seat belt in a way that increases the risk of injury. To avoid this, maintain a safe distance from the steering wheel and dashboard.
Seat belt pre-tensioners
Modern vehicles use seat belt pre-tensioners, which tighten the seat belt during a collision to reduce slack. While pre-tensioners are generally beneficial, they can cause injuries if they activate too aggressively, potentially resulting in burns or chest injuries.
Seat belt entanglement
Seat belts that have twists or tangles can increase the risk of injuries by preventing the belt from distributing crash forces evenly. Always ensure that your seat belt is properly aligned and free from obstructions.
Seat belts are essential safety devices in vehicles, but they are most effective when you use them correctly. Anyone using one should be aware of the factors that could lead to injuries when using a seat belt and take necessary precautions to maximize the protective benefits of seat belts while minimizing potential harm.