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Is it time to re-imagine the seat belt?

Anyone who's ever ridden in any type of vehicle has undoubtedly experienced the sensation of having their seat belt momentarily lock them in place after suddenly reaching for something or simply moving forward too quickly.

While this can prove to be somewhat irritating, it also serves as a subtle reminder of just how vital and just how effective this safety equipment really is. Indeed, statistics show that seat belts saved close to 14,000 lives in 2015 alone.

In light of impressive numbers like these, one would think that the seat belt is the one truly perfect piece of auto safety equipment, requiring no further technological advancements or refinements.         

Interestingly enough, however, a growing number of experts are indicating that this might not necessarily be the case, as seat belts can actually pose something of a safety hazard to certain classes of drivers.

What exactly is the issue?

While most people might not realize it, seat belts are designed to exert the right amount of force to keep a 40-year-old man in his seat during a collision. This can be problematic for smaller drivers, say experts, as this excess amount of force can cause everything from back and head injuries to chest trauma.

Are older drivers affected by this?   

Experts indicate that older drivers, men and women alike, are indeed disproportionately affected by this issue owing to their smaller stature and often more frail physical condition. Indeed, they have far higher rates of serious and even deadly chest injuries attributable to seat belts.

This issue becomes even more disconcerting when you consider that roughly one out of every five drivers in the U.S. is currently over 64 and that this number will grow by 77 percent by 2045.

Is anything being done?

A group of researchers at Ohio State University College of Medicine is currently conducting tests to determine how much force is needed to protect smaller motorists in a crash in the hopes of one day developing a seat belt that automatically adjusts for factors like stature or weight.

What should people do in the meantime?

Experts stress that everyone, regardless of age, weight or size, should always make sure to buckle up. However, they indicate that, if possible, drivers should adjust seat belt height so that it rests on the clavicle instead of the ribs, as it is much stronger. They also advise ensuring that there is at least 10-12 inches of space from the air bag.

If you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a car accident caused by the reckless actions of another, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your options for seeking justice.

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