Understanding the correlation between restraint and survival

Sheen Panel Service on 4 December 2020

If you've ever been in a serious car accident, you can probably put your survival down to a few strips of fabric, some pieces of metal and plastic, and a locking mechanism. Seatbelts are incredibly important safety features in cars, and are often the first and only thing keeping you safe from certain death.

And yet, they are still not being used by 100% of road users. According to the Transport Accident Commission, 31 road fatalities in 2019 were attributed to drivers not wearing seatbelts. This was not an anomaly, either. In 2020, a year with much less driving than usual, 11 people died on Victorian roads because they were not wearing seatbelts.

At Sheen Panel Service, we take pride in informing you about safety on the road. If you're involved in a car accident, we can help you get back on the road sooner with expert panel beating.

How do seatbelts improve car safety?

Seatbelts stop you in your tracks. They prevent your body from making heavy contact with solid parts of the vehicle, including the dashboard, steering wheel, and the sides and roof of the vehicle.

Seatbelts don't just stop you hurtling through the windscreen. They stop the body from undergoing undue stress when a collision takes place. The cross-sash locks in place to the seat, stopping internal organs from crushing against the ribcage, preventing fractures and internal bleeding.

Seatbelts are the primary method of occupant restraint in all kinds of motor vehicles, bar motorcycles and scooters. They also beat out airbags for effectiveness. Belting up should come before the car is even turned on.

What makes a good seatbelt?

As effective as they appear to be, not all seatbelts are the same. Seatbelt technology has come along in leaps and bounds since they were made mandatory in Victoria in 1970. When assessing the seatbelts of a car for purchase, here are some things to consider:

  • Three-point seatbelts (over the shoulder and around the waist) are more effective than two-point seatbelts (just around the waist). They disperse energy more effectively.
  • Audible seatbelt reminders are great for ensuring everyone is belted up before departure. Some cars won't even start until all occupants have seatbelts on.
  • Pretensioners are the mechanisms that prevent the seatbelt from having any slack when engaged, ensuring there is no give in the event of a crash.
  • Webbing clamps act to stop the seatbelt from reeling out when a collision occurs, keeping the occupant firmly in place in their seat.
  • Load limiters work in tandem with airbags to lessen the load on the chest and torso, allowing the deployed airbag to take some of the force.
  • Adjustable anchor points are largely for comfort, and allow the occupant to place the belt away from their neck and over their shoulder.

When it comes to restraining small children, there's a whole host of other things to consider. We would recommend contacting the manufacturer of the child restraint products you are considering before making a final purchase decision.

How can I be sure that my seatbelts are up to standard?

Defective seatbelts can be even worse than useless. When assessing the viability of your seatbelts, it pays to know what to watch out for. Here are some quick spot checks you can do to ensure that your belts are as safe as they can be:

  • Cleanliness. Belts should be clean to avoid degrading the fibres. Clean only with warm water.
  • Webbing. The fibres of the belt should be free from fraying, cracking and sun damage.
  • Components. Similarly, metal and plastic components and anchorage points should be free from degradation and rust.
  • Flatness. The belt should be flat and untwisted. Warping is a sign of damage.
  • Ease. Belt buckles and tongues should easily fit together and eject with little force.
  • Mechanisms. The locking-retraction mechanism is extremely important, and should be tested regularly. A simple pull will usually do the trick.

Keeping your family safe with functional seatbelts is an easily overlooked task for all car owners. With a little care and attention, you can get back on the road with confidence.

If you've been in a car accident recently, check your seatbelts for damage and wear. For damage to the outside of your vehicle, contact Sheen Panel Service for expert panel beating.