Make sure you wear your seat-belt
An astonishing 33% of fatal road accidents in the UK involve drivers and passengers that are not wearing their seat-belt. It has been a legal requirement for the last 27 years to wear one, and for good reason.
Without wearing a seat-belt, you are endangering the lives of not only yourself but other around you, and leaving everyone exposed to a greater risk of serious injury. In the event of a high speed accident, it is the one person who is not wearing a belt that will cause the most damage, as their unrestrained body essentially acts like a wrecking ball.
In spite of all the leaps that road safety has taken in recent years and all the technologically innovative devices with which cars are now fitted, without the humble seat-belt they are rendered pointless. It’s never been improved upon and is the most basic and essential form of road safety equipment.
Make sure you wear it properly!
Having said all this, if it isn’t worn properly it can’t do its job effectively.
The British Osteopathic Association (BOA) estimates that 13% of drivers wear their belt incorrectly. Its lower part should rest on the pelvic bones and not on the stomach to prevent severe internal injuries. Its upper component should rest on the shoulder as opposed to hovering over it. This is why most seat-belts are height-adjustable. Sitting too far behind the belt leads to a greater risk of ‘submarining,’i.e. slipping under the belt.
Make sure you’re sitting properly to prevent spinal injury
The top plane of the head restraint should be level with the top of the head and should also be as close as possible. The more space between the two surfaces, the more chance of whiplash or even a brain injury, in serious circumstances.
14% of drivers also sit too close to the steering wheel, which could lead to serious injuries in the event of a crash triggering the airbag.
BOA council member Danny Williams told Nursing in Practice: “While most of us are aware that seat-belts save lives, it’s fair to say that the majority of us don’t know that the way we sit in a vehicle also plays a huge part in our safety and well-being.
“The position of the head restraint, how far or close we sit to the steering wheel and how long we spend sitting at the wheel without having a break can cause long-lasting neck and back injuries.”
Lap belts cause injury: try and avoid using them if possible
A recent report in the Irish Medical Journal concluded that children and adults using a lap belt are more susceptible to suffering injuries in the event of a crash, particularly children.
Obviously, if nothing else is available a lap belt is better than no harness at all, but they pose a great risk to a child’s spine if a sudden jolt occurs. In addition to this, they are four times more likely to suffer a head injury compared to those children who wear a three point seat-belt or those in a properly designed child seat.
Booster seats should always be used to ensure that the child is properly positioned in the seat and that the belt will do its job properly if the worst happens, otherwise the child is at great risk of suffering what has been termed ‘Lap Belt Syndrome.’
“The obvious advice is to always use a proper child safety seat until the child is old enough to fit into a three-point standard safety belt,” comments Matthew Dixon, a specialist injury solicitor.
“If the child is too big for a child seat but still not quite big enough to use a normal safety belt, then a booster cushion is the simplest and cheapest way to make sure they are restrained safely in the car,” he adds. “By distributing the pressure across the body and keeping the top half of the torso secured against the seat rather than putting all the pressure across the lap, a serious spinal injury can be avoided in the event of an accident,” he explains.
Date Published: October 13, 2010
Author: David Brown