Seat Belts & Air Bags

The Foundation for Safety & Education continually promotes the importance of the proper use of seat belts and air bags, they could mean the difference between living and dying in a motor vehicle crash.

In 2008, 49 states and the District of Columbia had a safety belt use laws in effect. Use rates vary widely from state to state, reflecting factors such as differences in public attitudes, enforcement practices, legal provisions, and public information and education programs.

From 1975 to 2008, NHTSA estimates that seat belts saved 255,115 passenger vehicle occupants age 5 and older, including 13,250 lives saved in 2008.  If all passenger vehicle occupants over age 4 wore seat belts, 17,402 lives (that is an additional 4,152) could have been saved in 2008.

Seat Belt Tips

  • The lap belt should be adjusted so it is low across the hips and pelvis, never across the stomach. Adjust the belt so it is snug.
  • The shoulder belt should cross the chest and collarbone and be snug.
  • Your safety belts cannot work properly if you have the seat back in a reclined position or if you are slouched in your seat. The shoulder belt will not be against your chest and the lap belt could ride up over your stomach. For the best protection, keep the seat upright and sit back in the seat.
  • Do not put the shoulder belt behind your back or under your arms. Your head and chest could strike the steering wheel, the dashboard, or the back of the front seat. You could break ribs and be seriously hurt.
  • Restrain infants and children in age and size appropriate child safety seats. Safety belt do not provide the best protection for children. The best place for children is in the back seat whether or not the vehicle has air bags.
  • Never place a child safety seat in the front seat of a car equipped with air bags. Air bags are designed to be used with safety belts. Use your seat belt even if your car has an air bag. It is not an either/or situation. Seat belts protect in all situations. Most air bags today are designed to provide added protection in frontal crashes because those in a car are far more likely to die in a frontal crash than in any other type of crash.

Air Bag Tips

  • Sit back at least 10 inches for the steering wheel and dashboard. Always wear your seat belt properly.
  • Always seat children aged 12 and under in the back seat even if there isn't an air bag in front. The back seat is the safest in most crash situations.
  • Never install a rear facing infant safety seat in the front seat of a car equipped with a passenger side air bag.
  • If your steering wheel tilts, direct it toward your chest, not your head.
  • If you are pregnant, place the lap belt below your abdomen with the shoulder portion over your collar bone.

*Statistical data supplied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration*

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