Seat Belts

In 2009, seat belt use averaged 88 percent nationally, compared with 69 percent in 1998. However, the National Safety Council estimates that more than 14,000 people die each year in highway crashes that would not have been fatal if seat belts had been used. These 14,000 deaths could have been prevented by simply "buckling up."

There are plenty of arguments against the use of seat belts, but little evidence to support their objections. The fact is seat belts are the single most effective traffic safety device for preventing death and injury, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And, wearing a seat belt can reduce the risk of crash injuries by 50 percent. Everyone traveling in a vehicle should consistently wear their seat belt and wear it properly.

How to Wear a Seat Belt Lap Belt:

  • Be sure the belt is snug.  Slack allows room for movement before or during the crash, increasing the risk of spinal cord or head injury.
  • Be sure the belt is flat. A twisted belt concentrates the stress on a small body area, increasing the likelihood of injury.
  • Sit with your seat back upright. If the seat is reclined, you can slide under the belt, strike the dashboard or front seat and increase the possibility of abdominal injuries.
  • Sit back deeply in the seat.

Shoulder Belt:

  • Be sure the belt is snug.  Too much slack could result in facial and chest injuries.
  • Wear the belt over the shoulder, across the collarbone and diagonally across the chest.
  • Do not wear the belt under the arm. The collarbone is strong enough to distribute the crash forces, but the ribs are likely to break and puncture the lungs, heart, liver or spleen that lie beneath them.
  • Do not wear the belt in front of the face or neck.

Discussion Questions

  • Are seat belts important? Why?
  • What are two ways to properly wear your lap belt?
  • What are two ways to properly wear your shoulder belt?