The seat belt has saved hundreds of thousands of lives since its inception, but at rare times these devices can actually cause an injury. This is especially true if you fail to secure the belt properly. Today, we take a look at some of the more common injuries caused by seat belts, and how you can prevent these types of injuries.
Seat Belt Injuries
A seat belt is designed in such a way as to prevent a person from flying forward during a collision. To do this, the restraint cannot give much when a strong forward force is applied. So while your whole body won’t hit a hard surface during a crash, a part of your body will exert a violent force on the belt.
There are a number of factors that play a role in whether or not a person suffers an injury caused by a seat belt during a crash, including:
- Speed at the time of the crash
- Tightness/Looseness of belt
- Seat belt malfunction
- Improper belt placement on body
- Manufacturer defect
Types of Injuries
Because of the location of the seat belt, injuries caused by the restraint are generally limited to the upper body. Here’s a look at some of the more common types of injuries caused by seat belts:
- Bruises and scrapes in the chest region
- Broken or bruised sternum
- Cracked rib
- Internal organ injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
As we mentioned above, the speed and severity of your crash plays a role in whether your seat belt causes an injury, so not all seat belt injuries are preventable. Additionally, if your seat belt caused an injury, odds are you would have suffered a much more severe injury had you been unbuckled.
You can prevent or minimize the effects of a seat belt injury by ensuring you secure the belt properly. This means that the lap belt is secured firmly across your hips and below your stomach, and the shoulder belt is secured firmly across the middle of your chest and not near your neck. The belt shouldn’t be uncomfortably tight, but it also shouldn’t give you much wiggle room, otherwise it will do you no good in the event of a crash. Lastly, do not place the shoulder belt behind your back or under your arm for any reason.
PT of Costa Rican National Soccer Team for 2007 World Cup in Victoria, CAN. Clinical Instructor for University of Minnesota Doctor of Physical Therapy Affiliations