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Occupant Restraints

Occupant Restraints

Do you understand the value of wearing your seat belt?

To understand the value of safety belt use, you must first understand the dynamics of a crash. Every motor vehicle crash is actually comprised of three collisions.

The Car's Collision
The first collision is known as the car's collision, which causes the car to buckle and bend as it hits something and comes to an abrupt stop. This occurs in approximately one-tenth of a second. The crushing of the front end absorbs some of the force of the crash and cushions the rest of the car. As a result, the passenger compartment comes to a more gradual stop than the front of the car.

The Human Collision
The second collision occurs as the car's occupants hit some part of the vehicle. At the moment of impact, unbelted occupants are still traveling at the vehicle's original speed. Just after the vehicle comes to a complete stop, these unbelted occupants will slam into the steering wheel, the windshield, or some other part of the vehicle interior. This is the human collision.

Another form of human collision is the person-to-person impact. Many serious injuries are caused by unbelted occupants colliding with each other. In a crash, occupants tend to move toward the point of impact, not away from it. People in the front seat are often struck by unbelted rear-seat passengers who have become high-speed projectiles.

The Internal Collision
Even after the occupant's body comes to a complete stop, the interal organs are still moving forward. Suddenly, these organs hit other organs or the skeletal system. This third collision is the internal collision and often causes serious or fatal injuries.

So, Why Safety Belts?
During a crash, properly fastened safety belts distribute the forces of rapid deceleration over larger and stronger parts of the person's body, such as the chest, hips and shoulders. The safety belt stretches slightly to slow your body down and to increase its stopping distance.

The difference between the belted person's stopping distance and the unbelted person's stopping distance is significant. It's often the difference between life and death.

Air Bags
Air bags provide an extra degree of protection against crash injuries. They are meant to work with seat belts, not replace them. An air bag protects a front-seat occupant in a head-on crash by inflating upon impact and cushioning the occupant from colliding with the steering wheel, dashboard or windshield. The combination of seat belts and air bags offers maximum protection for motorists because they help the driver maintain control of the vehicle and help to avoid secondary collisions.

Air bags rapidly deploy from the steering wheel and/or dashboard. Most adults who are properly buckled up are safer in a vehicle with air bags, but the force of an air bag deploying may injure those who sit too close to it. You should sit with at least 10 inches between the center of your breastbone and the cover of your vehicle's air bag. Also, place your hands on the steering wheel at the 3 and 9 o'clock positions to keep them out of the way in the event of air bag deployment.

What's Your Reason For Not Wearing a Seat Belt?

"I'm only going to the shopping center." Actually, this is the best time to wear a safety belt, since 80% of traffic fatalities occur within 25 miles of home and under 40 miles an hour.

"I won't be in an accident: I'm a good driver." Your good driving record will certainly help you avoid accidents. But even if you're a good driver, a bad driver may still hit you.

 "I'll just brace myself." Even if you had the split-second timing to do this, the force of the impact would shatter the arm or leg you used to brace yourself.

 "I'm afraid the belt will trap me in the car." Statistically, the best place to be during an accident is in your car. If you're thrown out of the car, you're 25 times more likely to die. And if you need to get out of the car in a hurry - as in the extremely tiny percent of accidents involving fire or submergence - you can get out a lot faster if you haven't been knocked unconscious inside your car.

"They're uncomfortable." Actually, modern safety belts can be made so comfortable that you may wonder if they really work. Most of them give when you move - a device locks them in place only when the car stops suddenly. You can put a little bit of slack in most belts simply by pulling on the shoulder strap. Others come with comfort clips, which hold the belt in a slightly slackened position. If the belt won't fit around you, you can get a belt extender at most car dealerships.

 "I don't need a belt - I've got an airbag." Lucky you! An air bag increases the effectiveness of a safety belt by 40 percent. But air bags were never meant to be used in place of safety belts, since they don't protect against side impacts at all.