Seat Belts


Seat belts work. Using seat belts or child restraints will reduce the likelihood of being injured or killed in a traffic crash by 55% and 75% respectively. If youíre involved in a collision at 30 mph (48 km/h), the force is equivalent to a fall from a third floor window to hard ground below. Itís common for a person to be thrown from a vehicle in a collision or a rollover. If this happens, the chances of being killed or seriously injured are extremely high.


A few things to remember about seat belts:


       A lap belt prevents the occupant from being thrown from the vehicle. It also transmits much of the force to the lower body. The shoulder belt adds protection by reducing injuries to the head and face.


       Use the lap belt and shoulder belt together.


       Wear the lap portion of the seat belt low on the hips. Donít wear it over the abdomen. The shoulder belt must pass over the shoulder and not the neck. It should fit snugly over the chest.


       Donít wear the shoulder belt under the arm. In a collision, the belt will exert tremendous pressure on the chest and cause internal injury.


       Pregnant women should sit upright and wear the lap belt under the abdomen and as low on the hips as possible.


Buckle your children up! Make sure they use seat belts or child restraints each time they are in the vehicle. In the event of a collision, if they arenít restrained, thereís a good chance theyíll be thrown from the vehicle or thrown violently into other occupants of the vehicle.


Infants and small children should be buckled into the appropriate infant or child carrier. Many parents think they would be able to hold their infants in their arms in the event of a collision. This is nonsense. In a vehicle traveling only 30 mph (50 km/h), a 10 lb. (4.5 kg) infant will be ripped from a belted adultís arms with a force of almost 200 lb. (91 kg).


In Canada, and in most states, itís the law that children be protected by seats specifically designed for them. If used correctly, they will prevent your child from being thrown around in the vehicle.

Rear-facing infant carriers are designed for children weighing up to 20 lb. (9 kg). A combination seat can be used in the rear-facing position for infants. It may be turned around to the forward-facing position for toddlers who weigh approximately 20 to 48 lbs (about 9 to 22 kg). Check the manufacturerís directions. Use booster seats for children who are too large for a child seat. The child will then be in a better position to use the adult seat-belt system. For more information on the proper use of these seats, contact your branch of the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the Canadian Motor Association (CMA).



Copyright 1997 Safety Health Publishing Inc.


Martin Lesperance is a fire fighter/paramedic and is the author of the best selling book ďI Wonít be in to Work Today Ė Preventing Injuries at Home, Work and PlayĒ. Martin delivers keynote presentations dealing with injury prevention. His talks are funny, but still have a strong underlying message. Visit his website at