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Seatbelt Injuries In Motor Vehicle Accidents
Peter Pan
Southeastern College NUR 2237C
Instructor: Captain Hook

Seatbelt Injuries In Motor Vehicle Accidents
One of the most common types of personal harm experienced from a motor vehicle accident is seatbelt injury. During an automobile accident, the body is thrown frontwards and sideward that could cause harm mostly to the chest, abdomen & shoulders. This will of course have an effect on the body and in occasional cases, can cause internal injuries as well such as spinal cord injury (Achildi, et al., 2007), aortic separation, and intra-abdominal trauma such as colon perforation or mesentery rupture; even though they may feel uninjured. There is less likelihood to be seriously injured if a seat belt is being worn than if no seat belt is utilized at all.
Unfortunately, injuries can still occur even if a seat belt is used and should be treated expeditiously prior to injuries worsening. Notwithstanding it being Florida law, seat belts reduce the risk of serious damage and could save a life in the event of a car accident. Seat belts however, could cause misalignment of the spinal column and rib cage that can pull and orpinch nerves that connected the injured regions. In addition, numerous government agencies including the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC, 2014) have concluded that wearing a seat or lap belt while traveling in automobilesdoes save lives. Let us examine this objectively, in a collision; the vehicle comes to a sudden halt, necessitating a seat belt or lap belt to confine the forward motion of driver and or passenger.
While seat belts may obviate major injury when they are worn properly and function as intended, it is entirely possible that seat belts itself can cause injury to the driver or passenger. A seat belt injury may occur due to the following issues; improper placement of the belt over chest and lap, the tightness of the restraints, manufacturer defect, and the severity of the impact or device malfunction. The majority of seat belt injuries ends up being only minor and involves bruises and scrapes from the restraints. In addition, lap belts are responsible for internal damage to organs in the abdomen and the spinal column, while shoulder belts frequently result in injuries to the upper body such as the neck, sternum and shoulder. The more severe injuries caused by seat belts include vena cava severance, fractures, spleen rupture, dislocations, aortic dissection, internal bleeds; liver puncture and spine injuries. Correct placement of the seat belt on the occupant of the vehicle is imperative in the prevention of seat belt-related injuries. According to the CDC and the National Highway and Safety Administration (NHTSA); the shoulder belt must be placed diagonally in the middle of the chest and away from the neck area. On the other hand, the lap belt should be positioned firmly across the hips and beneath the stomach. One should never place a shoulder strap behind the back or under the arm (CDC, 2014). Children are especially guilty of this practice.
Surprisingly, some seat belt injuries are caused due to faulty seat belt restraint systems; meaning that the seat belt did not do what was intended because of a defect in its design.
For example, defective latches, faulty tension detectors and low quality strap materials are common. A faulty latch can cause the seat belt to disconnect through the force or angle of impact in an accident. While faulty tension detectors could fail to eliminate slack in the belt, or fail to maintain tautness in the belt after slack is eliminated. Furthermore, in situations where injury can be attributed to belt malfunction or manufacturer's defect, the harmed drivers and passengers could pursue legal recourse. Unfortunately, most passengers who get ejected from motor vehicles die, and in many instances they are thrown through the windshield (Bandstra, et al., 1998). The likelihood of being injured by a moving vehicle, hitting the roadway or a fixed object is much greater when not wearing a seat belt. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says:
“Most crash fatalities result from the force of impact or from being thrown from the vehicle, not from being trapped. All studies show you are much more likely to survive a crash if you are buckled in. Ejected occupants are four times as likely to be killed as those who remain inside.”
To reiterate, while the seat belt is expected to restrain the body to the vehicle’s seat; it is the deceleration of the body that could cause a seatbelt-associated injury. The seatbelt sign or seatbelt syndrome is bruising of the exterior chest or abdominal wall with the horizontal strap of a seatbelt. Two-point lap belts may cause insult to the pelvis, lumbar spine or abdomen. Similarly, three-point restraints could create the above injuries with potential further insult to major vessels, lung, chest, heart, and brachial plexus. So let’s talk about a worst case scenario, what if the car catches afire or plunge into a canal? Being belted in actually increase the probability of escape from burning or immersed vehicles. Whoever is not secured in a seat belt may get knocked around during the collision, often resulting in loss of consciousness. An unconscious victim has zero likelihood of escaping either of the two mentioned scenarios.
The total force and the direction of the crash are important dynamics that determine the outcome of an accident. During an anterior impact, there is slowing of the vehicle as it collides with another automobile or a static object. Subsequently, the occupant’s lower limbs receive the initial force of impact which results in various lower extremities injuries ranging from fractures, dislocations or even severance of femur, knees, ankle, tibia or fibula. Furthermore, the head may strike the windshield or the vehicle’s frame. Seatbelts should typically prevent the chest from hitting the steering wheel, the pelvis from advancing past the femur and the head from hitting the windshield (Achildi, 2007). Just about every study ever conducted by government agencies and consumer groups indicate that lap and shoulder belts reduce the risk of serious or fatal injury by 40 to 55% (NHTSA, 2014).
In summation, seatbelts are acknowledged nationwide as a defence in obviating traffic collision injury and fatalities. It decreases injury rates by preventing the passengers from striking the interior parts of the vehicle or from being expelled from the vehicle. Even though seatbelts are recognized as an essential safety device, it still remains underused in the United States. The incidence of seatbelt-related injuries can be lowered if seatbelts were applied and worn correctly. The presence of a seatbelt sign is an indication of possible intra-abdominal injury. There are several practical interventions already proven to work that can be implemented including measures and strategies that deal with some of the main risk factors for traffic injuries. Passing laws requiring child restraints and seatbelts for all passengers of vehicles and, enforcing and setting speed limits and improving automobile safety are vital. The enforcement of seatbelt laws is necessary to reduce death toll and serious injuries related to traffic accidents (NHTSA, 2014).


Achildi, O., Betz, R. & Grewal, H. (2007). Lapbelt Injuries and the Seatbelt Syndrome in
Pediatric Spinal Cord Injury. National Library of Medicine (NIH).(Supp 1), S21-S24
Retrieved from:

Bandstra, R., MacPherson, D., Mendelsohn, R., Monoghan, S. & Warner, C. (1998).
InternationalTechnical Conference on Experimental Safety Vehicles.16th ed. Volume II. Washington, D.C., NHTSA, p. 1347-1359. (2014). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: (2014). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved from:…...

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