Many accident injuries are caused by the passenger's seat belt. Improper fastening of the seat belt or seat belt malfunction are common factors behind these injuries. The type of seat belt injury a passenger receives depends on the seat belt design and how the seat belt was worn. Despite these facts, wearing a seat belt is still much safer than failing to buckle up. The key is to sit upright, wear the entire seat belt and fasten the seat belt securely.
Seat belt injuries are very common during a car accident. While the car comes to a sudden stop when a collision occurs, the passengers remain in motion. The passengers must also come to a stop, either by seat belt restraint or by colliding with something else. Seat belt injuries generally occur when the force of the accident is relatively severe or the seat belt is used improperly.
The restraint offered by seat belts when the passenger is still in motion but the vehicle is not varies between seat belt designs. The first seat belts were lap belts, which are not as safe as harness designs. Seat belt harnesses, which include a shoulder strap as well as a lap belt, work to spread the passenger's impact more evenly over the body. This distribution of impact reduces the force of the collision felt by the body, reducing the severity of injury.
Types of Injury
Using the shoulder belt while failing to fasten the lap belt can cause the passenger to slip out under the belt, resulting in strangulation or serious neck injury. Tucking the shoulder belt under the arm can result in internal injury to the chest and related organs. Wearing the lap belt alone while neglecting to wear the shoulder belt allows the head to go forward and hit the steering wheel or create whiplash. Wearing the seat belt too loosely can also allow the passenger to slide under the belt, while wearing it too high on the abdomen can cause serious injury to the abdominal organs. Common seat belt injuries include skin abrasions and injuries to the carotid artery, throat and cervical spine. Chest, rib and shoulder fractures are also common, in addition to abdominal damage, spinal trauma and injuries to internal organs.
Seat Belt Failure
Although many seat belt injuries are caused by improper use of the seat belt or simply the force of the accident, others are facilitated by seat belt failure. As personal injury lawyers are quick to point out, a number of seat belt defects have caused or increased the severity of injury-related accidents. In some cases, seat belts are unintentionally released due to poor design, causing additional injury or death.
The first rule to follow in seat belt injury prevention is to always wear a seat belt, and be sure it is properly fastened. Sit upright while in the car, keep the lap belt over your pelvic bones, and wear both the lap belt and shoulder harness. Do not tuck the shoulder harness under your arm, and make sure that the entire seat belt is snug. If you are the driver, make sure your passengers are securely fastened before the car is in motion. It is also prudent to do some checking on your make and model of car to see if there have been any safety issues with the seat belt design. This is particularly critical for older models.
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