Most people today take seat belts for granted. Every car has one, and few people under the age of 50 have seen a vehicle without seat belts. However, even though cars have existed since the late 1800s, seat belts didn’t become mandatory in cars in the U.S. until 1968. Here are seven more seat belt safety facts.
- Seat Belt Usage Is at an All-Time High
- Half of All Fatalities in Accidents Come from People Who Aren’t Restrained
- Seat Belts Decrease Moderate and Critical Injuries
- Shoulder Belts Aren’t Safe for All Children
- State Laws for Seat Belts Vary
- Parents Can Impact the Likelihood of a Child Wearing Their Seat Belt
- Seat Belts Can Be Adjusted
1. Seat Belt Usage Is at an All-Time High
Seat belt usage in the U.S. was over 90% in 2021. That is one of the highest usage rates ever. Comparatively, usage rates were roughly 70% in 2000 and nearly 20% in 1985.
2. Half of All Fatalities in Accidents Come from People Who Aren’t Restrained
Although only about 10% of people in car accidents aren’t wearing seat belts, almost 50% of fatalities are from that group. This means that seat belts significantly decrease the likelihood of suffering a fatal injury.
3. Seat Belts Decrease Moderate and Critical Injuries
According to the NHTSA, people wearing seat belts in the front seat of a car or light truck were at least 50% less likely to suffer a moderate or critical injury than those who don’t buckle up. Since passengers in the front seat are in the most danger in accidents, this is an important fact.
4. Shoulder Belts Aren’t Safe for All Children
Children should avoid wearing shoulder belts until they are old enough to wear them safely. This means the belt should lie snug across the chest and go up over the shoulder. If it crosses the neck or face, do not use the shoulder belt. This usually means that the child should be sitting in the back seat.
Booster seats are specifically designed to make seat belt usage safer for children. You should use a booster seat until the child is tall enough to keep their back against the seat, bend their legs naturally, and keep their feet flat on the floor.
5. State Laws for Seat Belts Vary
While every car in the United States is required to have seat belts, you are not required to wear your seat belt in every state. New Hampshire is the one state that doesn’t require adults to wear seat belts. Unsurprisingly, this state has the lowest seat belt usage of any state.
6. Parents Can Impact the Likelihood of a Child Wearing Their Seat Belt
It is common knowledge that children often mimic their parents. The same is true for seat belt usage. When parents don’t wear seat belts, children are 40% less likely to wear seat belts.
7. Seat Belts Can Be Adjusted
Manufacturers and dealers can adjust the fit of seat belts in your car. You can even test the fit and request an adjustment before you purchase the car. If you are buying a used car, you should be able to retrofit the seat belts by contacting the manufacturer.
Common Seat Belt Safety Misconceptions
Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about seat belts. Here are a few of the most common:
Seat Belts and Air Bags
Many people believe that you don’t need to wear a seat belt if your car has an airbag. This is false. Airbags are designed to work in conjunction with seat belts. If you aren’t wearing a seat belt when an airbag deploys, you are likely to be severely harmed by the force of the airbag opening or could be thrown over the airbag, making it useless.
Seat Belts and Pregnancy
A common misconception about seat belts is that you shouldn’t wear one while you are pregnant. On the contrary, doctors recommend wearing a seat belt at every stage of pregnancy. The one precaution you should take is to wear the lap belt under your belly rather than on or over it.
Another common belief is that seat belts are unnecessary for short trips. However, the majority of fatal crashes occur within 25 miles of home. Although it is even more important to wear your seat belt during a short trip than a long one, you should always wear it regardless.
Harm from Wearing a Seat Belt
A very dangerous misconception is that a seat belt will harm you more in an accident than it will help you. While it is true that, in some accidents, you can be seriously harmed by a seat belt, especially if worn wrong, in those accidents, you would almost always be hurt worse if you weren’t wearing one.
Seat belts typically only harm you when you are traveling at extremely high speeds. However, without the seat belt, you would likely have been thrown out of the car. And if you are thrown from a car at speeds of 50 mph or higher, you are almost certain to die from that.
Always Wear a Seat Belt
One of the most important seat belt safety facts is that, when worn properly, they greatly reduce the likelihood of serious injuries or fatalities. As such, you should always wear a seat belt whenever you are in a car.
Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. have been fighting for the people of San Diego. Now, when those injured in automobile accidents – including car, truck, and motorcycle accidents – need financial help, or for the families that need to know that the loss of a loved one could have been prevented, there is a personal injury law firm in San Diego that is on their side. If you or a family member has been injured, call the lawyers at Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. There’s never been a better time than right now to speak to a personal injury attorney—FREE of charge. Call us at 858-551-2090 or request a free consultation online today!
SENIOR PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY & FIRM FOUNDER
Michael Pines is a former insurance company attorney who graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1987. While he was an insurance attorney, he learned from behind the scenes how insurance companies work and how they decide how much to pay injured people. Now that he works against insurance companies, Michael’s inside knowledge has resulted in significant benefits to his clients injured in car accidents. Learn more about Michael Pines