Fastening the seat belt

Ask the Traffic School Instructor: Seat Belt Entrapment

Question: I know that you are supposed to wear a seat belt but I’m afraid of being trapped in my car if it should catch fire or go into the water. Are my fears real?

Answer: First off, I would never say anyone’s fears aren’t real. They are your fears so they are valid to you. Instead, let’s take a look at the reality of being trapped by a seat belt.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the type of crash you are imagining happens in less than one-half of one percent of all crashes. If we could plan our driving habits based on the type of crash we were going to have, then we could probably, just as easily, plan not to have a crash to begin with. But, for the sake of discussion, let’s assume you were one of the one-half of one percent involved in a crash into water or one that caused your vehicle to catch fire. What could happen to you if you weren’t wearing a seat belt?

Whether you crash into another vehicle or into water, your unbelted body will have no choice but to obey the laws of physics and continue traveling at whatever speed the car was traveling before the crash. That means your body will smash into the steering wheel at say 35 or 45 mph. Even in a relatively low speed crash at 25 mph, a small woman weighing 115 pounds will strike the steering wheel with a force of 2,404 lbs. If your car tumbles or spins out, your unbelted body will be thrown around inside the vehicle and you’ll probably have multiple impact points before coming to rest. Even if you’re still conscious after going through that sort of trauma, you probably won’t be in any shape to escape the vehicle.

No matter what type of crash or how violent it may be, you’re always better off securely fastened in place until the vehicle comes to a stop. By remaining fastened in, your chances of remaining conscious and healthy enough to effect an escape from the vehicle are tremendously increased.

As far as being trapped by the seat belt itself, mechanically, there’s nothing simpler than a seat belt latch. There is just one simple button to push and the probability of such a simple mechanism failing is astronomically small.

May I suggest, instead of fearing the consequences of wearing a seat belt, that you turn that around into a fear of the consequences of not wearing a seat belt.

Innovative Road Signs Slow Drivers

Drivers tend to ignore warning signs posted by the road so new, trickier methods are called for. By using forced perspective paintings of children in the street, life-size cardboard cutout policemen, and stripes painted across the road that make drivers think they are going faster than they really are, traffic safety experts around the world are becoming more creative in their methods to warn drivers to slow down. Read more: The road design tricks that make us drive safer

Fouth of July

Fourth Of July Deadly For Drivers

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) the Fourth of July is the deadliest day of the year for American drivers. Looking at data from 1986 through 2002, the IIHS determined that an average of 161 people die each year on the 4th. That’s 12 more deaths than average on any other single day of the year. Read more: More crash deaths occur on 4th of July than any other day

Booster Seat

Florida Law Requiring Booster Seats For Children Under 5 Inadequate!

On June 24, 2014, Florida’s governor, Rick Scott signed HB 225 into law requiring that all children under the age of 5 are required to be placed in a federally approved car safety seat or booster seat. While the law is better than the old law that allowed children over the age of four to graduate to seat belts, it still doesn’t go far enough.

To look at why the legislation isn’t enough we have to look at how seat belts work to restrain a body in a crash. If properly worn, low over the hips, a seat belt works in a crash by pushing against the hip bones. The shoulder harness works by pushing against the breast bone and shoulder bone. If the lap belt is worn too high, over the abdomen instead of low on the hips, it can cut through the soft tissue of the abdomen in a violent crash. The problem with children is that their frames are too small and narrow for the lap belt to remain low over the hips and they often ride up over the abdomen, leading to injuries in a crash.

A seat belt is better than nothing at all because the alternative in a crash would be for the child’s body to fly forward and crash into the front seat or impact multiple points within the vehicle. In violent crashes, the child’s body can be thrown out of the vehicle and strike the road surface so seat belts are always preferable to no protection at all.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has looked at crash data and recommends that children, once they have graduated out of a child protective seat, graduate to booster seats and remain in those booster seats until they are at least 4’9” tall. For the average child, that is anywhere from 9 to 11 years of age. The booster seat works by raising the body so that the seat belt rides low over the hips, providing maximum protection in a crash. Many states have adopted the IIHS recommendations and mandated booster seats for children until they are at least 4’9” or 9 years of age.

Regardless of what the Florida law may say, parents should maximize protection for their children and keep them in booster seats until they reach the 4’9” height. For more information on child protective seats and choosing the right seat for your child, visit the IIHS website at:

prescription drugs and alcohol

Drug Related Crashes Involving Prescription Drugs On The Rise

In a study released by Public Health Reports last week, drivers who test positive for drugs are more likely than in the past to use prescription drugs and multiple drugs at the same time. Compared to figures from earlier studies, the number of multiple drug users responsible for fatal crashes has increased from 1 in 8 to 1 in 5. Read more: More Drivers ‘Under the Influence’ Testing Positive for Multiple Drugs