We've all done it - hopped in the car to drive to the corner store for a quick errand and not bothered with a seatbelt. It's such a hassle! It's just a few blocks away! What could happen?
While it's true that not putting on your seatbelt may save you valuable nanoseconds, it is also true that accidents can happen anywhere. And wearing your seatbelt is the single most effective way to increase your chance of surviving a collision. According to the US-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seatbelts reduce the risk of death to front seat occupants by 45% and the risk of serious or critical injury by 50%.
Seatbelts are a powerful safety system - but only when they're used correctly. When I began researching this subject, I thought - are there any details we really need to know, how difficult is it to buckle up? After doing some digging, I realized that there are a few key things you need to make sure you are doing - some I wasn't even aware of!
The shoulder portion of the seatbelt should be worn over your shoulder and fit snugly across your chest. You might feel that putting the belt under your arm or behind your back may give you more freedom of movement, but if you don't wear the belt properly from shoulder to hip, you'll be more vulnerable to serious injury or being thrown from your vehicle in the event of a collision.
Once you've buckled it in, give the seatbelt a little tug to make sure it's snug and check to see if it's twisted. A twisted belt is less effective in an accident - it takes the full length of the belt to spread out the impact of a collision across your body.
One of the most serious risks to front seat drivers on the road are backseat passengers who aren't buckled up. In an accident, backseat passengers can be catapulted to the front, causing injury to themselves and the driver. Make sure that everyone in the vehicle is wearing their seatbelt - and don't take more passengers than you have seatbelts. Seatbelts aren't meant to be worn by two people at once.
Speaking of backseat passengers - all kids 12 and under should be buckled up in the backseat in an age/weight appropriate restraint system (car seats for infants and toddlers, booster seats for older children). When buckling the kids in, double check that their seatbelt isn't twisted and that it fits snugly across their chests and hips.
Children are ready to use an adult seatbelt by the time they're 4'9" (usually when they're between eight and nine years old), but it's still safest for them to be in the backseat until they're 13.
Buckling up won't just save you a ticket - taking a few extra seconds to ensure your seatbelt is on properly when you get into the car could ultimately save your life. Definitely worth the time!
So, did you learn anything? Was there anything in this article that surprised you?
For some interesting statistics about seatbelt use in Canada, visit Transport Canada, and for the goods on proper seatbelt use for kids of all ages, be sure and visit SafeKids.org and SafeKidsCanada.ca
Check out your province’s ministry of transportation website (like this one for Ontario) to understand seat belt laws for your province.
- Julie S.