Sitting down inside a motor vehicle seems like a simple task, but it can become hazardous if not done correctly with a seat belt. Incorrect sitting positions can increase the risk of more serious injuries in the event of a car accident. Before the 1990s, most passenger vehicles with seat belts were only equipped with lap belts. Lap belts were found to be far less effective by organizations like the insurance institute, leading to many fatal injuries in traffic crashes.
The vehicle manufacturer industry was eventually required to install more than just lap belts into newer passenger cars and light trucks to aid in injury prevention. Now all new vehicles must be equipped with a seat belt for the occupants.
Here are some of the ways improper sitting can put you at risk:
Placing your feet on the dashboard
One of the best seat belt tips for front seat passengers can follow is to avoid placing their feet or legs on the vehicle’s dashboard. Stretching out on long road trips is common, but placing your legs or feet on the dashboard can be extremely dangerous in real-world crashes, even with seat belt use in play. In case of an accident where the airbag deploys, the impact can cause serious injuries to your legs, feet, and even your spine. This remains true whether you are wearing a seat belt or not.
Extending arms and legs out of the window
Although it may seem tempting to stick your arms or legs out of a car window, extending appendages outside the vehicle interior is very dangerous. Your limbs can hit objects or other vehicles, exposing your body to unnecessary injuries, including the possibility of losing a limb or a fatal injury to your head. The injury risk is so great that it is illegal in most states. In other words, it renders a seat belt useless as a safety device when your arm’s body hangs outside the vehicle.
Positioning the headrest improperly
The top of the headrest should always be level with the top of the head while wearing a seat belt. A too-low headrest can be dangerous in case of a rear-end collision, as it may not protect the neck and upper part of the head during an impact. Keeping the back of your head as close to the headrest as possible will protect you from a possible neck injury and violent jarring and jolting effects that can lead to a traumatic brain injury (TB).
Sitting too close to the steering wheel
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that a driver should maintain at least ten inches between their chest and the steering wheel. This is because a steering wheel air bag can explode with nearly two thousand pounds of concussive force. That is equivalent to more than 200 miles an hour. In sum, sitting too close to the steering wheel and airbag can kill you! Ideally, the airbag should come into contact with the body after fully deploying in order to reduce the force of impact. In that case, your seat belt won’t protect you at all.
Not wearing a seat belt, especially in the back seat
Wearing a seat belt is one of the most universally known safety measures when riding in a vehicle. But a proper seat belt fit, especially when it comes to child booster seats, is truly a life-or-death matter. A seat belt for a child differs from a shoulder belt used for an adult or teen. Seat belts used by smaller children, like a lap belt, will generally be ineffective to protect a small child in a motor vehicle crash, especially in the front seat.
And if you are drinking, it is less likely you will properly restrain a child. Studies reveal a tie between restrained status driver alcohol use and child passengers. So it goes without saying, never drive while intoxicated or under the influence. Restraint use is far less with kids in these previous studies.
Enter Child Booster Seats
A child booster seat is always required if the seat belt’s shoulder strap crosses over the child’s neck instead of bracing its chest, and the lap belt crosses over the stomach rather than bracing against their hips or upper thighs. Typically, a booster seat is designed to have the seat belt hold the booster in place by weaving the lap and shoulder belt in the back of the seat itself. In California, child passengers under the age of 8 or under 4 feet 9 inches in height must be properly secured in a child passenger restraint system that meets federal safety standards and should ride in the vehicle’s back seat. This includes booster seats as well.
However, if the vehicle has only one row of seats, the child may be secured in a child restraint system in the front passenger seat if the passenger side air bag is turned off or if the vehicle has no air bags. However, it’s always safer for children to ride in the car’s back seat until they are at least 13 years old. This is for many reasons, especially to ensure highway safety and to keep babies from being killed.
Airbags can deploy in the dashboard in motor vehicle crashes and kill a small child. In pickup trucks with no back seats, the vehicle operator is supposed to disable the front passenger airbag, assuming they will travel with a baby in a child booster seat, in CA. Seat belts work in collaboration with the air bag system to offer optimal protection. Without a seat belt, a car accident could cause you to shift inside the vehicle and hit the steering wheel, the windshield, or even other passengers, causing serious injury or even death during transportation.
Bonus Information Regarding Posture While Seated in a Moving Vehicle:
Some recommendations for maintaining a proper driving posture include actions that could help relieve discomfort related to poor posture while driving and decrease the possibility of injury during an accident.
Here are a few postures to consider:
- Provide support to the back of the occupant while wearing a seat belt.
- Ensure the occupant moves their coccyx to adjust their posture as near as possible to the backrest with the seat belt on.
- If the car doesn’t permit an ideal position, make use of a lumbar or backrest cushion.
- Elevate your hips.
- Aim to modify the occupant’s seat so their thighs receive full support and their knees are slightly higher than their hips.
It is considered normal to be properly buckled up and restrained in a lap and shoulder harness restraint system while in a moving vehicle to stay safe. Researchers with organizations like the NHTSA have proven that lives can be saved with proper seat belt use. But they must fit comfortably, and you mustn’t engage in other activities like placing limbs outside the vehicle or placing your feet on the dashboard as a passenger.
Drivers must also buckle children into a proper facing, rear passenger child seat or booster seat. Children should never be front-seat passengers until legal requirements are met. Many dangers can be avoided with proper seat belt fit when compared to unrestrained passengers.