Everyone knows they should use their seat belt, even if they are among the 13 percent of people who, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), don’t regularly buckle up.
But, let’s be honest: Just because you always wear your seat belt doesn’t mean you wear it correctly. Where does the lap belt cross your body? How much slack is in the shoulder harness? What about securing kids who have outgrown a car seat or booster seat? Or restraining pets that are along for the ride?
A lot of people simply fasten their seat belts and go, without giving these questions another thought. But, having the right fit can make a big difference when it comes to protection. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that proper seat belt usage reduces serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about half.
So check out these tips, and, the next time you hop in the car, take a closer look at how you’re buckling up.
Seat Belt Tips for Adults
Your shoulder harness should be worn across the shoulder and chest with minimal slack, the NHTSA says. Never wear it behind your back or under your arm; improper seat belt use could actually contribute to serious internal injuries in a crash. The lap belt should be snug and low across your hips. And, remember, while air bags offer additional protection, they are not a substitute for seat belts. For example, in a rollover crash, an air bag won’t keep you in your seat.
For pregnant women, secure the lap belt securely under your bump and across your hips, the NHTSA recommends. The shoulder harness should go across your chest (keep it away from your neck) and to the side of your belly, not across it.
Car Safety for Kids
There’s a lot of information available on car seats and booster seats. NHTSA’s Parents Central site has a wealth of information on choosing and installing the right seat, in fact.
But, sometimes it’s hard to figure out just when your child is ready to get out of the booster seat and into a seat belt. First things first, follow your state’s guidelines. In general, kids should remain in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit properly into a seat belt, according to Parents Central. That means children who meet the following conditions:
Keep in mind that the belt must fit snugly across the upper thighs (not the stomach), and the shoulder harness should lie snug across the shoulder and the chest (not the neck or face). Check the fit for every child on every ride.
Securing Your Pets While Traveling
Some states have laws against transporting pets unsecured in the driver’s lap or the bed of a truck, but most do not. However, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends restraining your pets while they ride with you. There are a number of reasons for this. Loose pets can interfere with the operation of the vehicle by posing a distraction, obstructing vision or even physically impeding the driver. And, an unsecured pet, like any other object in the vehicle, can cause injury by hitting passengers in the event of a crash.
Seat Belt Usage in Taxis, Buses and Limos
The best rule of thumb to follow is this: If there’s a seat belt available, use it. Several high-profile incidents over the past several years have shown just how dangerous it can be to ride in the back of a limousine or taxi without wearing a restraint. Laws vary from state to state, but, just like when you’re driving your own car or riding with a friend, wearing a seat belt is always a good idea.
We all realize the benefits of wearing seat belts, so keep buckling up. And, make a real effort to wear them properly, too, so you get the strongest possible protection for you and your loved ones.
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