Drivesmart column: Wear your seat belt properly: it could save your life

The proper use of seat belts can double the effectiveness of airbags in minimizing injury.

By Tim Schewe

We all know that the law requires that we wear our seat belts when driving. The Motor Vehicle Act says in part “…wear the complete seat belt assembly in a properly adjusted and securely fastened manner.” Why should we worry, and how do we know what is proper?

During a collision where the occupant is wearing the seat belt properly the hips may move ahead as much as six inches, the chest eight to nine inches and the head 20 inches. You will strike anything within those distances. Wearing a seat belt improperly can actually contribute to injury especially in the case where the shoulder belt is worn under the arm.

The proper use of seat belts can double the effectiveness of airbags in minimizing injury.

Your vehicle’s owners manual is the best place to learn about how to wear your seat belt properly. It will explain how to fasten and adjust the belt to maximize both comfort and protection. It will also contain information on the correct use of child restraints.

Some examples of what NOT to do with a seat belt: wear the shoulder belt under your arm, continue to use a frayed or broken belt, put more than one child in a single seat belt, using a seat belt if it is twisted and any “do it yourself” webbing repair.

Almost all passenger car and pickup truck drivers in B.C. wear seatbelts and I suspect that most of their passengers do too.

This may not be the case with other types of vehicles such as buses. An article in the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper today reported on a bus crash that occurred on the Bamfield Road on Sept. 13, 2019 while transporting University of Victoria students to a research facility there.

Sgt. Brian Nightingale, an RCMP Collision Reconstruction expert was quoted:

“Had they been worn, the fatal injuries would likely not have occurred,” said Nightingale, “and the injuries would have considerably reduced.” Several people were hurt when they were tossed around inside the bus as it slid off the road.

The bus company involved had chosen to retrofit their vehicle with seatbelts because it had been manufactured without them according to Transport Canada.

Some forms of public transit do not require seatbelts such as school buses and city transit buses. Transport Canada does recognize that seatbelts can provided added protection for students on school buses. However, the implementation has been left up to the province, school board or bus operator.

If they do choose to install seatbelts Transport Canada does regulate how they are to be installed.

Municipal transit buses allow passengers to stand and that is provided for in exemptions set out in Div. 39.03 MVAR. There are limits to the number of standing bus riders depending on the vehicle’s age and the equipment provided by the manufacturer for them.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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