By Stephanie Levis
Seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about half, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The simple act of wearing a seat belt is the single most effective way to reduce the risk of fatality in a crash. So why do millions of people not buckle up on every trip? Let's debunk five common myths about wearing seat belts that are outdated or just plain wrong.
Myth 1: Seat belts are uncomfortable and restrict my movement.
Wearing a seat belt should not cause any discomfort or pressure when adjusted properly. Seat belts have come a long way in the comfort department since becoming a mandatory feature in cars in the 1960s. Technological advancements like polyester webbing and pretensioners, which eliminate slack in the event of a crash, have made seat belts more comfortable for the wearer. If you want to customize your fit, you can find clips and extenders at your local dealer or auto parts store.
With children, the shoulder belt should fit across the shoulder and chest, and the vehicle lap belt should fit across the upper thighs. (Children are typically between the ages of 8 and 12 years old when they are ready for a seat belt. A good test is if their knees bend at the edge of the seat when backs and bottoms are pressed against the vehicle seat back.)
Pregnant women should wear both the lap belt and the shoulder strap, ensuring a snug fit. Lap belts should be buckled under the belly and over hips. Never place the lap belt across your belly. The shoulder strap should go between the breasts and off to the side of the belly. Never place the shoulder strap under the arm.
Myth 2: Seat belts trap you in your vehicle during a crash.
This myth is often associated with fire and water-related accidents, which account for less than one-half of one percent of all crashes.
More importantly, seat belts can actually prevent you from being knocked unconscious, which can increase your chances of escaping during an accident.
Myth 3: I'm just going up the block for groceries. I don't need to wear a seat belt around town.
Think again. Routine, seemingly low-key trips can be deceptively dangerous. Did you know that most traffic-related deaths happen within 25 miles from your house and at speeds less than 40 mph, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
? Don't take any chances. Your life and the lives of your passengers are at stake.
Myth 4: I don't have time to put on my seat belt.
It only takes about three seconds to strap on your seat belt. That's less time than it takes to tie your shoe. Even if you're buckling up 20 times a day, that's only one minute of your day.
Myth 5: My car has air bags, so I don't need to wear a seat belt.
Air bags are designed to protect a buckled passenger, not an unbuckled one. Seat belts secure you in the proper position to benefit from an air bag deployment. If you're not wearing your seatbelt, you're in danger of sliding underneath the air bag, colliding with the dashboard or windshield, or being ejected from the front seat. Air bags are a supplemental form of protection and most are designed to deploy in moderate-to-severe frontal crashes, which doesn't cover all situations. Using air bags in conjunction with seat belts is your best bet.
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