Many people are aware of programs like the “Click It or Ticket” initiative. The law requires drivers and passengers to wear seat belts while driving, and law enforcement work to enforce car safety laws. Cars have seat belts for a reason. Ever since the seat belt’s invention, the straps keep people safe during crashes.
Thousands of drivers and passengers avoid injuries thanks to their seat belts. Nevertheless, many people do not wear them correctly or at all. Below we describe several seat belt facts to illustrate the necessity of this car safety feature.
The Invention of the Modern Seat Belt
Before car manufacturers implemented the familiar design of seat belts, vehicles primarily used a two-point lap belt. At the time, race car drivers mainly used them. The safety feature would go across the body, and the buckle would sit in front of the abdomen.
The two-point belt was unsafe since it could cause internal organ damage upon impact. In 1958, Volvo Car Corporation hired Swedish engineer Nils Bohlin. Bohlin had experience working on four-point harnesses for airplanes. He developed the three-point seat belt in a year, and Volvo cars became the first ones to implement this improved safety feature in 1959.
Three-point seat belts secure both the upper and lower body, and the straps meet at the hip. The buckle is below the hip in a place Bohlin called “the immovable anchorage point.” During a crash, your seat belt helps keep you in place without causing serious internal injuries.
When passengers wear seat belts properly, the impact of a sudden stop gets spread across the sturdy parts of the torso. Today, fewer people get hurt when an accident happens thanks to this improved design.
Mandatory Seat Belt Laws
Eventually, the seat belt design made its way to the United States. Volvo made the three-point seat belt design free for other car manufacturers. By 1968, the federal government required every American car to use the new version of the belt. Since its invention, engineers keep improving on this safety feature to make it more effective during accidents.
While cars were legally required to have seat belts by the late 1960s, the law did not yet require people to wear them properly. Around 14 percent of car occupants buckled up at the time. In the 1980s, a state representative in Michigan introduced a new bill. The bill would issue fines to passengers for not wearing a seat belt, and it created controversy.
In 1985, the Transportation Secretary instructed car manufacturers to include airbags on the driver’s side of a car. If they wanted to avoid doing so, two-thirds of the states had to pass mandatory seat belt laws by April 1989.
New York became the first state to pass mandatory seat belt laws. Officials saw compliance rise to 70 percent. Now, all states issue fines to people who are not wearing a seat belt. The amount a person has to pay varies from state to state.
Seat Belt Statistics
Cars have multiple features to make them safer for passengers when on the road. Some may think airbags are enough to cushion the body during a crash. However, engineers meant for airbags to work with seat belts instead of replacing them. In some cases, people receive injuries when the bags deploy, particularly if they are not wearing a seatbelt.
Research shows the effectiveness of seat belts and how they can save lives. This success has caused active usage to increase to around 85 percent. Still, one in seven people does not consistently wear seat belts.
Several seat belt statistics to keep in mind are:
- According to the CDC, approximately 33,000 people die in a collision, and roughly 2.2 million get injured every year.
- An estimated 53 percent of people who died in a vehicle crash were not wearing a seat belt.
- Seat belts reduce the chance of fatal injuries by 45 percent for drivers and front-seat passengers. The risk of nonfatal injuries decreases by 50 percent.
- Seat belts save thousands of lives each year. Since 1975, the safety feature has saved an estimated 255,000 people.
- In a single year, injuries and deaths from a collision can result in financial loss. Accidents cost around $70 billion in medical bills and lost wages per year.
The facts show that seat belts prevent personal damage and financial loss.
Seat Belts and Children
Children are one of the most vulnerable groups in vehicle accidents. Crashes are a leading cause of death among children between three and 14 in the United States. Smaller children need to ride in an appropriate car seat to stay safe.
More than 600 children under the age of 12 die in motor vehicle crashes each year, according to the CDC. Of those children, about 33 percent of them are not wearing a restraint. More than 97,000 children receive nonfatal injuries annually.
Forms of child restraint misuse include having a wrong seat for the child’s age and weight. The safety belt attached to the car seat may be loose. The harness straps on the child may not be tight enough as well.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a study observing the use of car seats and booster seats for child passengers. The study found that a large percentage of families used seat restraints incorrectly. Correct usage means there is no slack in the harness straps.
For more than 60 years, the current seat belt design has improved safety for car passengers. Thousands of people avoid fatal and nonfatal injuries by wearing them. Children need to use seat belts along with car seats to stay safe and secure in the car.