The most important decision you can make when getting behind the wheel is to buckle up. Wearing a seat belt is not only the law, it can also be the difference between life and death. In 2017, an estimated 14,955 lives were saved by wearing a seat belt across the United States.

Although most Americans, around 89.6% of people polled in 2018, confirmed they click it every time they drive, it doesn’t mean they’re wearing it properly or won’t experience injuries because of it.

What are the most common seat belt injuries?

While, generally speaking, seat belts do more good than harm, they are not without their risks. Injuries to the abdomen (including the stomach, intestines, liver, spleen, and pancreas), the chest (including rib fractures), and the spine and neck (including spinal fractures and herniated discs) can all occur when the force of an auto accident causes trauma from a seat belt.

Seat Belt Injuries: Abdomen

The most common abdominal injuries are those that affect internal organs. The stomach, small and large intestines, liver, spleen and pancreas often experience bruising or tearing of the mesentery, the fold of tissue that holds the abdominal organs in place. Blunt force trauma can also cause internal bleeding, which can lead to further complications. Multiple injuries are common and are often combined with spinal injuries.

Abdomen injury

Seat Belt Injuries: Chest

Oftentimes, chest injuries from a seat belt can appear to only be superficial. Bruising, lacerations, and rashes from the belt are clearly visible and thought to be the main cause of pain. In many instances, underlying injuries go unnoticed. Chest injuries can include:

  • Rib Fractures
  • Sternum Fractures
  • Damage to lungs and trachea
  • Connective tissue and cartilage tearing
  • Punctured or damaged lungs
  • Heart contusions
  • Injury to chest wall

Seat Belt Injuries: Spine & Neck

References to the backbone of an entity are used to describe the basic underlying foundation of everything else included. We pull this analogy from the spine, the guiding force of movement for the rest of the body. One of the spine’s main purposes is to absorb and distribute shock imposed on the body. Because of the powerful force of a car accident, spinal injuries are extremely common and can include:

  • Spinal Fractures
  • Herniated Discs
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Paralysis
  • Facet Joint Injuries
  • Whiplash

What is the correct way to wear a seat belt?

Common complaints regarding seat belts are that they’re uncomfortable and restricting. However, no amount of lack of comfort is worth the risks associated with not wearing one, and the purpose of wearing one is in fact to restrict movement during a collision or sudden stop. Following these simple steps of how to properly wear a seat belt could save your life and prevent further damage from wearing one incorrectly:

  • Positioning: Sit up straight with your back and hips aligned with your seat. Slouching or slumping can cause slack in the belt which will lessen its intended effects.
  • Shoulder Strap: Many drivers buckle up around the waist and disregard the torso. The shoulder strap protects the upper body and helps to distribute force across the body. Removing or putting the shoulder strap behind you will cause more force to the abdomen and pelvic region which can cause severe injury.
  • Adjustments: It’s important to understand that any slack will hinder the effects of your belt. Make any seat moving adjustments before you put your seat belt on. Make any other adjustments necessary to ensure the shoulder strap is placed across the collar bone, with no slack as it connects to the auto interior.

These guidelines for wearing seat belts do not apply to children, who should be properly restrained according to the most current car seat laws in Florida every time they are in a vehicle.

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