How Do Seat Belts Keep You Safe?

Seat belts are more than status quo with safe driving anymore. From those “buckle up or get pulled over” warnings on highways to the seat alarms that make sure you stay clicked in, seat belt safety has evolved over the years to become not only normal but necessary.

In fact, buckling up has become such a way of life that most of us don’t even think about the consequences if we don’t. But did you know that the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that almost 15,000 lives are saved every year in the US thanks to seat belts? There are over 37,000 people killed in auto crashes each year. Just think of the difference seat belts can make! There is enough to worry about in repairing a car after a collision, let alone losing a life.

The History of the Seat Belt

Back in the day, seat belts were not a concern. In fact, when cars were first brought onto the road, they were not even a thing! As the years went by, cars not only got faster and flashier and lighter (read – easier to crumple), they also increased in sheer numbers. More cars on the roads going at faster speeds meant one thing: more accidents, and more dangerous accidents at that.

It may surprise you to learn that the very first seat belt patent was issued in 1885 to one Edward Claghirn in New York. It was a far cry from the seat belts of today, though, as it was more of a harness to secure tourists to any moving object. Flash forward, then to the late 1950s when Volvo introduced the world to the first three-point seat belt. Invented in Sweden, it made its debut in 1959 and Volvos and has been the standard ever since.

By 1968, laws were changing. So much so that seat belts were now legally required to be included in every new automobile. However, not all states had a mandatory law for wearing them.

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How Exactly do they Work?

A seat belts design and idea is fairly basic: to keep a person safely in place in the event of a crash. And safe means preventing them from being ejected or thrown at hazards. The seat belt reacts to body force and secures itself – and its passenger – securely in place. This means at all times, even when a vehicle stops abruptly but the person may be moving forward still! A sudden stop by a seat belt across the chest is safer than by hitting your head into a window. Worse still would be being fully thrown from the car.

What is Safest?

Though two-point seat belts (a belt without a chest strap, having only two points of attachment at each hip) exist, they are much less common in cars. They are typically found in buses, planes and other mass transit. Three-point seat belts, with both a lap and shoulder belt, are what you will find in most vehicles. They are considered much more effective, as the three point belts spread the force across more of the body. This minimizes the strength of the force in one area and, by default, injury.

It is important to remember that seat belts are designed for adult bodies. Car seats, then, are a must as they safely disperse the force of the stop in an accident.

Seat belted passengers are always considered to be safer than unrestrained ones, as according to the NHTSA, “During a vehicle crash, being buckled up helps keep you safe and secure inside your vehicle, whereas being completely thrown out of a vehicle is almost always deadly.” Safety is always top priority – a car can be repaired, but injuries are harder to recover from.

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