It would seem that, by now, everyone should know the importance of wearing a safety belt. Driving (or even riding in) a car can be dangerous business, and seat belts save lives. Collected, concrete data overwhelmingly supports this claim. So, why are there still drivers who simply refuse to utilize this incredibly protective device?
How do Safety Belts Work?
According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), the seat belt and latch save around 13,000 lives in the United States each year. How are they so effective?
- Lap and Shoulder Belts and Latch: The webbing that is used to produce the belt portion of a safety harness is made up of hundreds of strands of polyester fibers. And a typical lap and shoulder belt is designed to align with the strongest areas of the human body: the ribs and the pelvis. In the event of a collision, these belts spread the energy of the impact across the body to minimize damage.
- Retractors: These are spring and spool units located at the end of the belt webbing. When the webbing is pulled out, retractors turn counterclockwise. And if the webbing is released, the spring tightens, moving the spool clockwise until the slack has been brought back into the spool. Most retractors have locking mechanisms that are either triggered by the motion of the car or the belt itself.
- Pre-tensioners: These work in conjunction with the retracting mechanism in order to pull passengers into the seat and away from danger just prior to collision. Pre-tensioners pull in the belt to remove slack and force the passenger into an ideal crash position, minimizing potential injury. In many cases, the vehicle's safety system will activate the pre-tensioners before the air bags in order to lessen the effect of air bag impact.
- Load Limiters: These are designed to reduce belt-inflicted injuries by releasing a little more belt when force is applied. This allows a little extra give in the process of slowing down a person's velocity. And while some load limiters are a simple fold of webbing (released when the thread breaks), others use a torsion bar inside the retractor to provide the necessary slack.
No Good Reasons for Not Buckling Up
There really is no valid argument for not wearing a seat belt.
- Seat belts are uncomfortable. It is really just a matter of getting used to having them in place. After wearing them for a while, most drivers don't even notice them.
- I have airbags. Airbags increase seat belt effectiveness by as much 40%, but are not sufficient on their own because they do nothing to prevent side impact injuries. It is also the case that seat belts can actually prevent airbags from doing bodily harm to the driver/passenger.
- I'm a good driver. Even the best drivers can make the occasional mistake, and it only takes one to cause an accident. Also, even if you are the most skilled driver on the planet, can you attest to the abilities of everyone else on the road? The roads will be much safer if everyone takes the time to protect themselves.
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