The Gory Truth About Seat Belts from Consumer Reports and a Paramedic
Click It or Ticket
The Click It or Ticket laws in the U.S. are arguably as equally polarizing as our politics. And is probably the reason why some states today are still seeking to overturn the law---because it gets votes. And this is despite the facts of what the law has done to save lives.
According to a recent Consumer Reports article about car safety and seat belts, the importance of reminding car owners about the seat belt law is that:
• It is your first line of defense in an auto accident.
• Today approximately 10% of front seat passengers still do not put on their seat belts.
• Statistics from 2019 data shows that 47% of passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2019 were those who were not wearing seat belts.
However, more precisely focused on vehicle ejection related deaths:
• People who don’t wear seat belts are 30 times more likely to be thrown out of a vehicle during a crash.
• Over 75% of people who are ejected do not survive.
Here’s a video from the NHTSA that touches on this point:
Point of View from Experience
For four years I worked as an EMT and as a paramedic in both city and rural areas. By far the number of emergency calls received were vehicle accident related. Thankfully, the majority were relatively minor fender benders where the parties needed evaluating on the spot and then transported when recommended or requested to a local ER.
However, there were more than I care to remember that went way beyond a neck brace and strapping to a spinal board. And the majority of those were the ones where drivers and passengers did not wear a seat belt.
The gory truth is not so much death---in my experience that’s the easy part for most patients to deal with. What is the harder part is the aftermath of survivable broken spines and necks, that are abruptly and forever life changing. That, and the disfigurement.
Most videos show a body launched through a windshield looking clean enough for an open casket service, but I have yet to see a video where the head goes through only partially and thereby peeling the scalp and some of the face off.
In real life I have seen this and it is not a pretty picture, or reflection in the mirror after the healing is done when the passenger or driver survives.
Another gory truth is not all ejections are complete or through the windshield. In fact, many times the ejection is from the driver or passenger door window and even then, it’s only partial leaving a crushed head during a rollover in its wake. Those are the ones my memory cannot shake.
Vintage Car Restoration Safety
One especial warning that car buyers of vintage vehicles need to know is that often the glass is vintage as well and does not meet current safety standards. In other words, your head impacting that glass could look like something out of a horror movie.
I know that some people will argue against using non-vintage glass---or any parts for that matter--- in a vehicle restoration; however, when it comes to safety and the “what could happens” in life, you have to use common sense when factoring in how the vehicle is going to be used---is it a showpiece or will it be on the road.
A related potentially worst-case possibility of a vintage restoration I ever saw was someone repurposing a large mirror by chemically removing the silver backing and then fitting it into an early model Ford. Just imagine what would happen if a vehicle passing your slow ride threw a pebble into that windshield sending shards of glass into your face.
The point here is that before buying a restored vehicle, be sure to find out what glass was used and determine its level of safety by researching the make and model and decide whether it is worth the risk to you and your passengers.
The same thing goes for seat belts (and lack of) in vintage cars.
A few points about seat belts and vintage cars should be made:
• Seat belts do get old and do need replacing in vintage cars.
• Seat belts can be installed in vintage cars that did not originally have seat belts.
• In some restorations you will find that restoration was limited to only cleaning the belts and not assessed for safety. Furthermore, some cleaning agents used to make the belts “look like new” risk weakening the belt material.
• Seat belts are not really a DIY project. Seek assistance from a reputable business that knows exactly where your seat belt hardware should be anchored.
Classic Car Seat Belt Installation
This was not intended to be a scare piece, but just one person’s view experienced with cars and accidents and why I support “Click It or Ticket” road laws and why this was a good reminder from the people of Consumer Reports.
We Would Like to Hear from You: If you have a seat belt related experience to share or have a differing view of seat belt laws, we would like to hear about it in the comments section below.
For more about vehicle safety, here are some selected related articles:
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Timothy Boyer is a Torque News automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily new and used vehicle news.
Image Source: Pixabay