Seatbelt Injuries & Car Accidents
While seatbelts are meant to protect you in a car accident, they can also cause severe injuries. The good thing is that these injuries are typically more apparent and easy to diagnose, so the necessary treatment can be started right away.
How Do Seatbelt Injuries Occur?
Seatbelts will typically provide protection by restraining you when another vehicle collides into it. However, the impact of the seatbelt on your body can cause damage to underlying structures, especially in a high-speed crash. Whether a seatbelt injury will occur typically relies on the following factors:
- How quickly the vehicle was moving at the time of the collision
- Whether the seat belt malfunctioned
- Where the seat belt was placed on the body
- Whether the seat belt had an unknown manufacturer defect
- The severity of the collision
There are several ways a seatbelt can cause injuries, including:
Bruised or Broken Ribs
Even in a minor car accident, the impact can lead to bruised ribs from the force of the seatbelt cutting into you. Bruises can be as painful as a broken rib. In high-impact collisions, the restraint can even lead to rib fracture. Fractured ribs can puncture the lungs and lead to pneumothorax, a medical emergency. Any injury to the ribs can take several weeks to months to heal.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Your soft tissue includes the skin, connective tissue, fat, tendons, blood vessels, ligaments, and muscles. It does not include your bones which are considered hard tissue. Seatbelts often injure the soft tissue in the shoulder or abdomen in an accident. Tendons and muscle fibers can tear in the shoulder, often causing severe pain. When it comes to the abdominal region and nearby organs, you may not feel pain right away, but you should be evaluated immediately. If there is any risk of internal organ damage, it could be life-threatening.
Injuries to Chest & Torso
If you are wearing a seatbelt correctly, the chest and the breastbone, also called the sternum, are the direct points of impact in a collision. The sternum and the ribs protect your lungs, heart, spleen, and the upper part of your liver, so any injury to this area can also affect these delicate organs.
Head or Neck Injuries
One of the most common types of seat belt injuries is whiplash. Whiplash occurs when there is an abrupt jolt to the head, which leads to damage to the neck’s soft tissues. Whiplash can cause neck pain and stiffness, loss of range of motion, headaches, and tinnitus. In some cases, victims suffer from chronic pain. If you are not wearing your seatbelt correctly and the shoulder portion of the belt is behind you, your head could strike the steering wheel, which could lead to a serious head injury.
The Cost of Not Buckling Up
These injuries from wearing a seatbelt might sound severe, but they pale in comparison to the consequences of choosing not to buckle up. Drivers and passengers who fail to wear a seatbelt are much more likely to suffer a permanently debilitating or fatal injury from being ejected from the vehicle. Seatbelts saved close to 15,000 lives in 2017, and more than 2,500 more could have been saved if they had worn their seatbelts.