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     Volume 6 Issue 20 | May 25, 2007 |

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Better Buckle Up!

Syeda Shamin Mortada

Road traffic crashes occur on all continents and in every country of the world. Every year millions of people die and millions more become incapacitated. The elderly, children and the disabled are more vulnerable in road accidents than most. It is seen that low and middle income countries carry a large portion of the burden where global traffic deaths and severe injuries are concerned. Every hour around 40 people lose their lives due to road traffic injuries in South East Asia alone. Despite this fact, road safety has failed to receive sufficient attention. There is a lack of awareness and information regarding the scale of the problem regarding the health, social and economic impact of traffic accidents and the interventions and measures that can prevent or reduce accidents. The WHO and World Bank data show that without adequate actions, injuries due to traffic accidents will rise dramatically by the year 2020, especially in the rapidly motorising countries. One of the major reasons that causes severe injuries is the non use of seat-belts in case of cars; and crash helmets in case of motorbikes. Despite terrible traffic problems and reckless driving, proper use of seat belt is still the single most effective thing we can do to save lives and reduce injuries on our roadways. The ability of seat belts to reduce injuries and fatalities in vehicular accidents has been established beyond question. Failure to buckle up contributes to more fatalities than any other single traffic safety-related behaviour.

According to research the risk of death is reduced by up to 60% in drivers using seat belts compared with those not using a seat belt.

In a serious collision large forces are at work. Think of the last time you witnessed the resulting damage to the vehicles involved. In order to reduce the effects of collision forces on car passengers, automotive engineers design seat belts to hold individuals securely in their seats, allowing them to "ride down" the crash, and prevent major contacts with the vehicle interior. Safety belts play a key role in protecting vehicle occupants by keeping them inside. Therefore occupants are less likely to strike the windshield, dashboard and other interior parts. The risk of death is five times greater when occupants are thrown from a vehicle in a crash. Safety belts also help drivers maintain control of their vehicle by keeping them in the driver's seat during the violent forces involved in crashes. This implies your chances of being killed or injured are greatly reduced when you wear safety belts, and the likelihood of injury is even minimised when the belts are worn accurately. Because, belts when used incorrectly can give rise to serious and even fatal injuries to adults and children. Seat belts are designed to fit across strong portions of the human anatomy that can withstand the forces of a collision. The lap belt goes across the bony pelvic girdle, while the shoulder belt goes over the rib cage. Three simple steps should be followed to ensure the best use of seat belts. While buckling up make sure that the latch clicks firmly into place. Pull up on the shoulder belt to tighten the lap belt and ensure that the lap belt fits comfortably; the lap belt should be adjusted in a way that it goes around the front of your pelvis with the webbing lying across the top of your thighs. And lastly your shoulder belt should retract so that the shoulder belt fits snugly across your chest and over your shoulders.

Safety Researchers around the world confirmed that safety belts are real life savers and reduce the incidence of serious injuries in any types of clashes: head on, rollovers rear-end and side impacts.

That is why it is even more important that all school buses should be equipped with proper seat belts. Nothing is more important than your child's safety. The importance of having your baby, toddler or child, safely secured in the car cannot be underestimated. Use of seat belts in school buses will help foster a lifelong habit of seat belt use among children. Similarly, the use of child seats or booster seats is all the more necessary. Child restraints work in the same way as adult seat belts; the use of child restraints can reduce infant death in car crashes by 71% and toddlers deaths by 54%. The use of a restraint depends not on the age but the weight of the child: rear-facing seats are particularly effective for young infants, forward-facing restraints are appropriate for younger children and booster seats used with seat-belts are adequate for older children. Children under 13 years of age are safest in the back seat of a car away from any potential point of impact. Therefore make sure your child is properly buckled up, no matter where you are, where you are going or how short the journey is.

The number of passengers in a car should be equal to the number of seat belts, at all times. Seat belts should be worn in taxis as well. It is the taxi driver's duty to ensure that safety belts are available and in good working order. In low and middle income countries the usage of seat belts is generally much lower. It is seen that young male drivers use their safety belts less than the other age groups and are more likely to be involved in accidents.

The use of seat-belts has been one of the most effective road safety measures ever implemented, saving more lives than any other intervention. No matter who you are, you are not immune from the wretchedness of not wearing safety belts, therefore do remember to put on those seat belts the first thing you enter a car. Buckle up and have a safe journey!


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