Seat belts are designed for one purpose only, to save lives. Statistics show that by wearing a seat belt the probability of death when involved in a collision is halved, whereas according to the data from the Dirección General de Tráfico (DGT) and the Instituto Universitario de Tráfico y Seguridad Vial (INTRAS), the risk of death is cut by a staggering 77% in an overturned vehicle.
However, for the seat belt to be effective, it must be worn correctly, in order for it to fulfil the function it is designed for fully.
The correct way to wear the seat belt is for it to go across the torso diagonally, and across the waist, firmly secured in these positions. The top part must be on the hard part of the collarbone, halfway between the shoulder and the neck. The lower end sits against the hardness of the pelvis.
The three-point seat belt, which is fitted as standard to most modern vehicles, has an upper (thoracic) and a lower band (pelvic). Both must be snugly fitting against the body. For the seat belt to offer maximum protection it must be on the hard parts of the body, leaning against the collarbone, halfway between the shoulder and neck at the top, and the iliac crest of the pelvis, never on the abdomen.
Accessories such as cushions or other additions should not be used. Once you have pulled the seat belt across your body and secured the strap in the locked position, make sure that the seat belt is not twisted at any point. If it is, undo the seat belt and remove the twists. Once secure, pull the seat belt so that it fits snugly against the body, with any slack being taken back at the top.
If the seat belt is not worn correctly, it can cause further problems in the event of a collision. For example, if the upper band is taken off the shoulder, it can cause a head impact with the windscreen, dashboard or seat in front. It can also produce cervical lesions.
If the belt is not firm around the body it can cause the vehicle to slide under the belt, casing lower body and spinal injuries. This is often referred to as the “submarine effect”. To prevent “submarining”, the vehicle occupants must also sit in a proper position when riding in the vehicle, with the seat belt securely fastened as mentioned, and without having any additions such as pillows or cushions which may contribute to the reduction of effectiveness of the seat belt.
It is also important to remember the one seat belt – one seat rule. All vehicle occupants are obliged to wear a seat belt, both in the front and the back seats. Some vehicles only have two seat belts in the back for example, and so that vehicle can only carry two passengers on that seat.
There are other rules regarding children in cars. Primarily, children under 1.35 metres in height are not allowed to travel in the front seats and they most use an appropriate restraining system for their height and weight.