DriveSmart BC – Some People Still Don’t Wear Their Seatbelt

Over my lifetime so far, I’ve gone from a child who rode on a foam mattress in the back of our family station wagon on summer road trips to a grandfather who would not dream of driving anywhere without grand daughters safely buckled up in proper child restraints. Needless to say, wearing my own seatbelt has become a reflex action. I’m uncomfortable if I don’t wear it and don’t notice it when I do.

That said, it is still not uncommon to find people who are unbelted, even though B.C. has had mandatory seatbelt use rules since October 1977.

Transport Canada reports that B.C. met it’s Road Safety Vision 2010 target of 95% compliance along with Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan. Citing Canada as a whole, 36% of fatally injured drivers and 38% of fatally injured passengers were not wearing their belts at the time of the collision. It is estimated that about 300 lives could be saved every year if everyone wore belts.

I wonder if some people cannot conceive of the tremendous forces that a person is subjected to during a collision. Occupant restraints are designed to help you ride them out safely.

We may think of seatbelts as being inflexible, yet even when properly fastened it could stretch enough during a collision to allow you to hit anything within 25 cm. Stretching is necessary to dissipate energy and that is evident during post crash examination.

I used to look for plastic smears on the belt surface from the D ring on the pillar by the wearer’s shoulder. Enough heat built up between the belt and the ring that plastic on the ring surface melted onto the belt. If the plastic did not smear, the belt often left a fabric pattern imprint in it.

When the D ring was not plastic coated, a shiny line across the seat belt fabric could often be found.

I’m certain that in one collision I investigated, the unbelted rear seat passenger was thrown forward with such force that they tore the front passenger seat mounting bolts out of the floor. It is also possible that this contributed to the death of the person who was in that front seat at the time.

Most vehicles on the roads these days contain at least one airbag. The airbag is designed to protect you in a collision in conjunction with the seatbelt being properly worn.

If you do not wear your seatbelt properly the deployment of the airbag during a crash could cause serious injury or death instead of protecting you. I cannot stress enough the importance of reading and understanding the section on occupant restraints in your vehicle’s owner’s manual!

Another quirk I often notice is drivers who put their seatbelt on after they have started to drive or while they are pulling up to reverse and park. The time to deal with your seatbelt is before you move your vehicle or while your vehicle is stopped during the interval between driving forward and backing up. To do otherwise is a distraction and can interfere with your control over the vehicle.

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Constable Tim Schewe (Retired)

DriveSmartBC: Where better than average drivers satisfy their curiosity.

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