Seatbelts – Nuisance or Necessity

The seatbelt-wearing rate in South Africa is alarmingly low - less than 50% of front seat occupants and less than 8% of rear seat occupants wear their seatbelts. Seatbelt wearing for drivers and all passengers should be second nature.

Studies conducted in several countries, including the United Kingdom and America have shown that the seatbelt is still the most effective method to reduce fatalities and serious injuries in a crash.

The sad fact is that annually hundreds of people still lose their lives in crashes on South Africa’s roads. When a vehicle is involved in a crash, passengers are still travelling at the vehicles original speed at the moment of impact. When the vehicle finally comes to a complete stop, unbelted passengers slam into the steering wheel, windshield or other parts of the vehicle’s interior.

Seat belts are our best protection in a crash. They are designed so that the forces in a crash are absorbed by the strongest area of your body - the bones of your hips, shoulders and chest. Seatbelts keep you in place so that your head, face and chest are less likely to strike the windshield, dashboard, vehicle interiors or other passengers. Seatbelts also keep you from being thrown out of a vehicle.

4 reasons why you should wear your seatbelt

  • Seatbelts can save your life in a crash
  • Seatbelts can reduce the risk of serious injury in a crash
  • Thousands of people who die in car crashes may still be alive if they had been wearing their seatbelts.
  • It only takes three seconds to click into place

What is the right way to wear a seatbelt?

The lap belt or lap portion of the belt should be adjusted so that it is low and snug across the pelvis/lap area. Never across the stomach.

The shoulder belt should cross the chest and collarbone and be snug. The belt should never cross the front of the face (on the case of children) and should never be placed behind your back or under your arm.

The lap and shoulder belt fits properly when you sit with your back against the vehicle seat back cushion, with knees bent over the vehicle seat edge and feet on the floor. If the lap and shoulder belt do not fit a belt-positioning booster seat should be used. A booster seat raises your sitting height, which enables the lap and shoulder belt to fit properly.

How seatbelts help to prevent serious injuries or death

During a crash, safety belts distribute the forces of rapid deceleration over larger and stronger parts of the body. Additionally the seatbelt actually stretches slightly to slow down body movement and increase its stopping distance. The safety belt helps belted drivers to maintain control of the car by keeping them in the driver’s seat. This gives them the opportunity to prevent a second crash.


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