Wearing the seat belt in a moving vehicle is believed to have saved millions of lives worldwide. Buckling up your seat belt is mandatory and the most important precaution you can take to minimise your risk in an accident.
Always remember that everyone has an equal chance of being involved in a collision, so do not take any chances with your safety and that of your fellow passengers. Seat belts are designed to give a high level of protection in the event of a crash.
The basic idea of a seatbelt is very simple: It keeps you from flying through the windshield or hurdling toward the dashboard when your car comes to an abrupt stop. But why would this happen in the first place? In short, because of inertia.
Inertia is an object's tendency to keep moving until something else works against this motion. To put it another way, inertia is every object's resistance to changing its speed and direction of travel. Things naturally want to keep going.
If a car is speeding along at 60 kilometres per hour (kmph), inertia wants to keep it going 60 kmph in one direction. Air resistance and friction with the road are constantly slowing it down, but the engine's power compensates for this energy loss.
Anything that is in the car, including the driver and passengers, has its own inertia, which is separate from the car's inertia. The car accelerates riders to its speed. Imagine that you're coasting at a steady 60 kmph. Your speed and the car's speed are pretty much equal, so you feel like you and the car are moving as a single unit.
But if the car were to crash into a wall, it would be obvious that your inertia and the car's were absolutely independent. The force of the wall would bring the car to an abrupt stop, but your speed would remain the same. Without a seat belt, you would either slam into the steering wheel at 60 kmph or go flying through the windshield at the same speed. Just as the wall slowed the car down, the dashboard, windshield or the road would slow you down by exerting a tremendous amount of force.
It is a given that no matter what happens in a crash, something would have to exert force on you to slow you down. But depending on where and how the force is applied, you might get killed instantly or you might walk away from the damage unscathed.
A typical seat belt consists of a lap belt, which rests over your pelvis, and a shoulder belt, which extends across your chest. The two belt sections are tightly secured to the frame of the car in order to hold passengers in their seats.
When the belt is worn correctly, it will apply most of the stopping force to the rib cage and the pelvis, which are relatively sturdy parts of the body. Since the belts extend across a wide section of your body, the force isn't concentrated in a small area, so it can't do as much damage. Additionally, the seat belt webbing is made of flexible material. It stretches a little bit, which ensures that the stop isn't quite so abrupt. The seat belt shouldn't give more than a little, however, or you might bang into the steering wheel or side window. Safe seat belts will only let you shift forward slightly.
Pregnant women too should wear seat belts. Depending on how severe the car accident is, pregnant women without the seat belt on could be at risk for miscarriage, pre-term labour and other serious complications. If the pregnant woman is wearing her seat belt properly at the time of the accident, she and her baby will face no or fewer injuries. Survey reveals that there are nearly 170,000 car crashes involving pregnant women every year. So it's important for moms in all stages of pregnancy to properly wear seat belts at all times when travelling in a car.
Guidelines for wearing a seat belt for pregnant women:
- Always wear both the lap and shoulder belt.
- Buckle the lap strap under your belly and over your hips.
- Never place the lap belt across your belly.
- Rest the shoulder belt between your breasts and off to the side of your belly.
- Never place the shoulder belt under your arm.
- If possible, adjust the shoulder belt height to fit you correctly.
Has it ever crossed your mind that what happen to a child in an event of a collision? The child would almost certainly be hurled about inside the vehicle, injuring himself / herslef and other passengers. Worse still, they're likely to be thrown from the vehicle through one of the windows. It's not always safe to hold a child on your lap while on the move. In a crash, the child could be crushed between your body and part of the interior of the car. Even if you were held in by a seatbelt the child would be pulled from your arms by the force of the collision. You simply wouldn't be able to hold on to the child, no matter how hard you tried.
The bottom line is that the safest way for children to travel by car is in a child seat that is suitable for their weight and size, and is fitted correctly. The child should be seated in the child seat with a seat belt properly put on to ensure their safety in case of an eventuality.
We spoke to a few motorists on the issue of wearing seat belts and this is what they had to say. You will be shocked to learn what they had to say.
"I can't move with those belts on. They're so uncomfortable!"
The fact is, proper seat belt allows for total freedom of motion while driving. The latching device that secures the belt only goes into effect when the car jolts abruptly, as in an impact.
"It's better to be thrown out of the car than be trapped in by a seat belt."
People who are thrown form cars are 25 times more likely to be killed than if they had been held securely in their seats.
"I only drive around town; how can I get hurt going 60 kilometres per hour?"
A recent survey reveals that the majority of all car accidents occur within 50 kilometres of home and 80 per cent of all serious injuries and fatalities occur in cars going 60 kilometres per hour or slower.
"I'm a good driver. I've never had an accident."
A person may be a good driver, but there are situations beyond a driver's control, such as weather and road conditions (not to mention other drivers) that can affect safety.
While few people admit to regularly travelling without a seat belt, research shows that 24 per cent of people admit they sometimes don’t wear a seat belt when they are occupying the rear seat and 10 per cent in the front. There is also evidence that people are less likely to use seat belts on short or familiar journeys or at low speeds. This puts them at serious risk of injury in a crash.
Don’t be so casual about your life. Make safety a habit. The next time you get in a car, remember to buckle up. Should you be involved in an accident, your family and loved ones will be glad you had your seat belt on. Sometimes, a seat belt can mean the difference between life and death.
Did you know?
Seat belts were first invented by George Cayley in the early 19th century, though Edward J. Claghorn of New York was granted the first patent (U.S. Patent 312,085) on February 10, 1885 for a safety belt. In 1946, Dr. C. Hunter Shelden had opened a neurological practice at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, California. In the early 1950s, Dr. Shelden had made a major contribution to the automotive industry with his idea of retractable seat belts. This came about greatly in part from the high number of head injuries coming through the emergency rooms. He investigated the early seat belts whose primitive designs were implicated in these injuries and deaths. His findings were published in the November 5, 1955 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in which he proposed not only the retractable seat belt, but also recessed steering wheels, reinforced roofs, roll bars, door locks and passive restraints such as the air bag. Subsequently in 1959, Congress passed legislation requiring all automobiles to comply with certain safety standards.
American car manufacturers Nash (in 1949) and Ford (in 1955) offered seat belts as options, while Swedish Saab first introduced seat belts as standard in 1958. After the Saab GT 750 was introduced at the New York Motor Show in 1958 with safety belts fitted as standard, the practice became commonplace. However, the first modern three point seat belt (the so-called CIR-Griswold restraint) used in most consumer vehicles today was patented in 1955 (US Patent 2,710,649) by the Americans Roger W. Griswold and Hugh DeHaven, and developed to its modern form by Nils Bohlin for Swedish manufacturer Volvo—who introduced it in 1959 as standard equipment. In addition to designing an effective three-point belt, Bohlin demonstrated its effectiveness in a study of 28,000 accidents in Sweden. Unbelted occupants sustained fatal injuries throughout the whole speed scale, whereas none of the belted occupants was fatally injured at accident speeds below 100 kmph. No belted occupant was fatally injured if the passenger compartment remained intact. Bohlin was granted U.S. Patent 3,043,625 for the device.
The world's first seat belt law was put in place in 1970, in the state of Victoria, Australia, making the wearing of a seat belt compulsory for drivers and front-seat passengers.
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