WEARING a properly adjusted seat belt reduces the risk of fatal or serious injury by up to 50%. But it seems that some people still don't get the message.
Seat belts are arguably the greatest single safety innovation the motoring industry has seen.
Believe it or not, the first patented seat belt design was presented in 1885. They were first used in aircraft but it was not until the 1920s that American physicians encouraged their use in road going vehicles.
The classic three point lap-sash seat belt was first introduced in the late 1950s and wearing a seat belt became compulsory in Australia during the early 1970s.
Since then seat belts have saved countless numbers of people from being killed or seriously injured in car crashes.
Yet even today some people still don't get the message and each year many people are killed or injured on our roads because they were not wearing a seat belt.
Research has shown that failing to wear a seat belt is one of the leading causes of road crash death. In fact you are 10 times more likely to be killed in a road crash if you are not wearing a seatbelt.
Putting on a seatbelt should be as much a reflex action as turning the ignition key.
During a crash situation the seatbelt has a few main functions:
1. Cause the occupant to decelerate at the same time the vehicle.
2. Spread the force of the impact over the stronger parts of the occupant's body (pelvis and chest bones);
3. Prevent the occupant colliding with the interior parts of the vehicle, and
4. Prevent the driver and passengers from being ejected from the vehicle.
As the driver, it is your responsibility to make sure that everyone in your car is buckled in correctly.
An unrestrained person is at the mercy of the violent forces that occur in a crash.
Their body weight increases dramatically as it is being thrown around the cabin. This is not only bad news for that person but they could easily crush other people in the car and kill someone who would have otherwise survived.
So make sure that you and your passengers are buckled in correctly.
Belts should be free of any twists and fit snugly across the chest and hips. Once buckled it is a good idea to pull the belt tight to take the slack out of it. It is also wise to pull the belt sharply to make sure that the inertia lock is working.
Some cars also allow you to adjust the height of the belts position on the B-pillar. It can be adjusted so as not to be too close to the neck area.
It is vital that children and babies are properly restrained as well. That means using a baby capsule or an approved child's seat.
The "buckle up" message has been around for a long time, but it is still just as important today.
The bottom line is that wearing seat belts saves lives. So before you start your engine make sure everyone is buckled in.
Russell White's experience in the driver training industry spans more than 24 years. He is widely regarded as one of Australia's leading road safety advocates. His business offers the complete range of driver training and fleet management services, visit driversafety.com.au