Whiplash is a very common problem afflicting millions of people every year. In fact, there are more than 6 million car accidents each year in the United States alone. Death associated with car accidents occurs every 12 minutes and each year, motor vehicle collisions (MVC) kill 40,000 people. For people between 2 and 34 years old, MVCs are the leading cause of death. Another sobering statistic is somebody is injured in a car crash every 14 seconds and about 2 million people receive permanent injuries in car crashes each year. Over a five-year period, over 25% of ALL drivers were involved in a motor vehicle collision. The cost of car accidents averages $1,000 for each American per year resulting in a $164.2 billion total cost each year in the United States. Approximately 250,000 children are injured in car crashes, meaning approximately 700 kids are injured daily. Car crashes are the leading cause of acquired disability. Hopefully, these rather startling statistics have grabbed your attention. Last month, we discussed various effective ways of reducing the likelihood of being in a motor vehicle collision (MVC). As an appropriate follow-up, this discussion will cover seatbelts and their role in injury prevention and their life-saving capabilities.
In general, the available evidence available is clear – seatbelts save lives! Regarding backseat passengers, wearing a seatbelt is 44% more effective at preventing death than riding unrestrained. Similarly, for those positioned in the rear of a van or sport utility vehicle, the use of rear seatbelts is 73% better at preventing a fatal outcome during a car crash. In more than one half of all fatal car accidents, the victims are not properly restrained. In 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported the use of seatbelts increased 1% over 2007 with 83% of drivers wearing their seatbelts. They add the use of seatbelts increased to 90% on highways versus 80% on surface streets (in town). In states where rear seatbelts are required, 85% of adult backseat passengers complied versus states not mandating rear seat seatbelt use where only 66% of the passengers complied. The NHTSA has launched a campaign, “Click It or Ticket” and has provided a guide to seatbelt safety promoting the proper use of the seatbelt and have provided the following safety seatbelts tips:
- Make sure your seat belt fits snugly. Seat belts worn too loosely can cause broken ribs or injuries to your abdomen.
- Place the lap belt low on your hipbones and below your belly. Never put the lap belt across your belly.
- Place the shoulder belt across the center of the chest between the breasts.
- Never slip the upper part of the belt off your shoulder. Seat belts that are worn too high can cause broken ribs or injuries to your belly.
- The most effective safety protection available today for passenger vehicle occupants is lap/shoulder seat belts combined with air bags.
There is a common myth that seatbelts cause injuries at low speeds and therefore, it is better to not wear the seatbelt when simply traveling in town. There is overwhelming evidence in almost all circumstances, seatbelts save lives, even in low speed collisions. Because the forces that occur in low-speed crashes are transferred to the contents of the vehicle (ie the passengers and driver) due to the lack of crushing metal and less vehicle damage, the occupants of a car struck at a low speed can be thrown about significantly… striking the windshield, side window, and other contents inside the car.
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