Putting on a seat belt should be second nature when getting in a car. Despite this, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that around 27 million Americans still drive or ride without their seatbelts.
Research clearly shows that seat belts reduce and prevent serious injuries. In the event of a car accident, you will never regret having an added layer of safety and protection.
Seat Belt Safety Laws in Illinois
Wearing your seat belt is more than just a good idea. In Illinois, it’s the law. All vehicle occupants including the driver and passengers aged 8 and over must wear seat belts in a vehicle.
Drivers in particular are responsible for making sure that all passengers are complying with Illinois’ safety belt law. If a passenger is unable to buckle or adjust their own seat belt for any reason, the driver should do it for them.
Child Safety Seat Laws
Illinois’ Child Passenger Protection Act requires all children who are younger than 8 years of age to ride in an age and size-appropriate child restraint system. Current research supports the following child restraint systems:
- Rear-Facing Car Seats – These car seats are recommended for babies from birth to 12 months of age. However, Illinois state law requires parents to keep babies rear-facing until age 2. The NHTSA also encourages parents to keep their children rear-facing until 3 years of age if possible
- Forward-Facing Car Seats – While rear-facing for as long as possible is generally considered best, forward-facing care seats may be appropriate for children between the ages of 2 and 7, although ideally starting at age 3.
- Booster Seats – Booster seats work best for children between the ages of 7 and 12.
These child restraint seats should always be placed in the back seat of your vehicle. Never place a child’s seat in the front passenger seat, as the air bag can do much more harm than good.
How to Correctly Wear a Seat Belt
While wearing a seat belt is one of the most important steps you can take to reduce and prevent serious injuries, you also need to make sure that you are wearing it correctly. You can think of your seat belt as two separate pieces when buckled up—the shoulder belt and the lap belt.
Your shoulder belt should rest securely across your rib cage in the middle of your chest. If the shoulder belt resting too high, it could hurt your neck during a collision.
Your lap belt belongs in your lap, resting across your pelvis rather than your stomach. Your stomach cannot withstand the force of a crash as well as your pelvis, so placing your lap belt too high may cause damage to your internal organs during a collision. Pregnant women should consult with their doctors for the proper placement and seat belt safety.
Never place your shoulder belt under your arm or behind your back, either. It is not designed to be worn this way and, again, could do far more harm than good in a car accident.
Don’t give up if you are struggling to find the correct fit for your seat belt. Try adjusting your seat or even contacting your car’s manufacturer for a seat belt extender if needed. Using a seat belt extender made specifically for your vehicle is much safer than purchasing one from a third-party.
How Seat Belts Reduce Car Accident Injuries
One of the simplest ways that seat belts protect you is by preventing you from being ejected from your vehicle during a collision. A crash is 30 times more likely to eject you from your car if you are not wearing a seat belt.
Wearing a seat belt also limits the chances of being tossed around in a crash. When your vehicle suddenly stops, your seat belt makes sure you do, too. This limits the risk of hitting your head on the steering wheel, dash, or window.
Seat belts are not intended to replace air bags, though. Instead, these two safety features work in conjunction with one another to help reduce and prevent serious injuries.
Today’s 3-point seat belts are also a vast improvement over their first iteration. Per its name, a 3-point seat belt has three points of attachment and spreads the force of an impact across more of your body. This minimizes how strong the crash force is in just one area, which reduces the severity of car accident injuries.
A 2-point seat belt (also called a lap belt) is no longer the standard, as it has only two points of attachment around each hip. During a crash, a 2-point seat belt localizes the force of the collision to just one place—your pelvis.
These seat belts are designed for adult bodies, though. Children should always be properly restrained in appropriate child restraints in the back seat.
Seat Belt Safety by the Numbers
There is no disputing the fact that seat belts help to minimize injuries and help to minimize crash fatalities. For those who remain unconvinced, it may be helpful to consider some of the following seat belt statistics and data:
- Seat belts reduce serious injuries by 50% and deaths by 45% in front seat passengers and drivers.
- Car crashes are the number one cause of death in Americans between the ages of 1 and 54.
- In 2019, nearly half of those killed in car accidents were not wearing seatbelts.
- Seat belts prevented approximately 374,196 crash fatalities between 1975 and 2017.
Moving Forward After an Accident
There is no disputing that seat belts are highly effective at reducing and preventing serious injuries. Unfortunately, you can still be injured in a car accident while wearing your seat belt.
It can be frustrating to end up in a situation like this where you did everything right but still ended up hurt. The car accident attorneys at Schweickert Ganassin Krzak Rundio, LLP can help provide guidance through what is already an upsetting time in your life. If you are ready to move forward with a claim for your injuries, be sure to reach out for a free consultation.