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Defensive Driving Tips: Seat Belt Safety Facts

Oct 15, 2007
Defensive driving techniques are not restricted to technical driving skills and tactics. One of the simplest and most effective defensive driving techniques to protect yourself as a driver or a passenger is to ALWAYS wear a seat belt. It is well proven that seat belts save lives, and drivers should learn all they can about seat belt safety facts.

Research has shown that vehicle occupants have a 40 percent better chance of surviving a crash if they are wearing a seat belt (this statistic is dependent upon the severity of the crash - some crashes are so severe that survival is impossible). However, in many crashes seat belts play a major role in reducing injuries. Each year around 20 per cent of all road fatalities were people not wearing a restraint. Hundreds of other people are disabled for life in road accidents where they were not wearing a seat belt.

SEAT BELT SAFETY FACT #1

Seat belts protect drivers and passengers in a number of ways, such as:

1. Decreasing the time it takes an occupant to come to a stop upon impact
2. Minimizing a person's contact with the interior of the vehicle
3. Spreading the force of the impact over a greater area of the body
4. Preventing ejection from the vehicle.

SEAT BELT SAFETY FACT #2

If you are the driver, before the car starts moving you need to make sure of the following:

1. Your own seat belt is properly fastened and adjusted to fit firmly
2. Your passengers' seat belts are properly fastened and adjusted firmly
3. Children traveling in the car are properly restrained.

If you are a passenger, before the car starts moving make sure you have:

1. Properly fastened and adjusted your seat belt
2. Encourage the driver and other passengers to buckle up.

SEAT BELT SAFETY FACT #3

Being pregnant is no reason not to wear a seat belt. Wearing a seat belt means you are protecting both yourself and your unborn baby if you are involved in a crash. Here are a few tips for comfortably and correctly wearing a seat belt whilst pregnant:

1. Place the lap sash part of the belt under the baby bulge, as low as possible. The lap part of the seat belt should sit over the upper thighs, not across the bulge.

2. It is often possible to adjust the angle of the seat belt by using a seat belt locator.

3. Make sure the sash part of the belt is in between the breasts.

SEAT BELT SAFETY FACT #4

Children must be restrained in a restraint suited to their size and weight. The restraint must be correctly and securely fitted to the car. In certain cars it is possible to fit an additional lap belt to accommodate a fourth small child in the back seat. Lap belts are not recommended on their own, but are safe if used in conjunction with a properly fitted child harness.

Before moving children from a booster seat into an adult seat belt, certain conditions should be met.

1. The adult seat belt fits correctly. The lap part is low over the pelvis (not the stomach) and the sash does not touch the child's face or neck and all slack is removed.

2. Lap/sash seat belts offer much greater protection than lap belts. Where possible put your child in a seating position with a lap/sash belt.

3. Children riding in school buses must wear a seat belt if one is available. Only one seat belt per person must be used.

SEAT BELT SAFETY FACT #5

Seat belts must always be kept in good condition. Car owners should check the condition of seatbelts in their vehicle as a standard part of vehicle maintenance routine. The following things should be checked:

1. The seat belts themselves are not twisted, cut or frayed.

2. The buckles are in good working order, engaging and releasing properly.

3. The retractors work properly. The seat belt should pull out smoothly and be fully retracted when not in use.

In many countries, such as Australia, it is illegal not to wear a seat built. By law, every person travelling in a car must wear a seat belt if one is available. Tough penalties apply for those who break the law. More and more countries around the world are embracing this fact, and the message about the importance of "buckling-up" is being spread loud and clear.

Wearing seat belts is clearly one of the easiest defensive driving techniques a driver or passenger can employ, and learning all the seat belt safety facts is the best place to start.
About the Author
Jean Littman is co-owner of DefensiveDriverSense.com which provides quality resources on defensive driving techniques,advanced driving and traffic safety programs.
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