A public bus in central China’s Zhuzhou City overturned after a head-on collision with a car. In what could have been one of the most disastrous and fatal road accidents, most passengers, barring one, came out with minor injuries. One would think that the passengers were very lucky to have escaped death, and indeed they were but what played a crucial role in their safety were the seat belts.
Closer home, where do we stand when it comes to following seat belt rules? A 17-city survey by Maruti Suzuki revealed that only 25% Indians bother to strap the seat belt when they get into the car. With over 3.5 million passenger vehicles sold in the country every year, this is indeed alarming.
Seat belt is the primary restraint system in a vehicle and can help avoid impact of the occupant with interiors of the vehicle or ejection from the vehicle during impact. Wearing a seat belt, correctly, is imperative under all circumstances.
Given its significance, what are some of the ways we can better our seat belt usage?
Follow correct protocol: The lap portion of the belt passes over the hip bone and not directly over the soft abdomen area. Make sure that the upper part of the belt passes around the centre of the shoulder, away from the neck and the anchor is securely locked. Ensure lap belt rests across your hips and not your stomach. NEVER put the shoulder belt behind your back or under arm.
Discard faulty seat belts: Be diligent in periodic inspection of the seat belt to make sure that they are not damaged by wear and tear. Belt guides often accumulate grime, so it’s necessary to clean them to ensure smooth and effortless retraction of the webbing. Buckles, anchorages, retractors must be regularly checked as well.
Check seat-belt extenders: Choosing the appropriate length of the seat belt extender is important to maximize the impact of buckling up safely. As a rule of thumb, one should opt for the shortest possible extender as most have a fixed length, and when an extension is buckled in, your seat belt will retract, using the full length of the extender.
Child restraint system: If the shoulder portion of the belt passes over the center of the shoulder of the child rather than near the neck/face, then it is recommended to use adult belt directly. Otherwise suitable child restraint systems (CRS), booster seats must be used for protection. Young children and babies can get severely injured if they are in the path of a deploying airbag, which calls for attention to detail in CRS placement. For example, a rear facing CRS should never be used on a seat which has a frontal airbag near it.
As per World Health Organization estimates, seat belts could have saved 45-50% of front seat occupants in road accidents across the world. Buckle in properly, spread the awareness and let’s do our bit in improving road safety.