Bound to safety by seat belt Law & Order

Seat belt can reduce the severity of injuries in crashes, writes S. Anil Radhakrishnan

Severity of road accidents involving cars and other four-wheelers can be drastically reduced by using seat belt as it has been found to be the single most effective means of reducing fatal and non-fatal injuries in crashes.

The advent of small cars has enhanced fatality risk in the event of a crash. Ejection is a major threat in the event of a crash involving a four wheeler. It is against this that seat-belts provide the greatest protection. Three-fourths of car riders, who are thrown out from the car, are invariably killed.

Though four-wheelers’ role might not be significant in the total proportion of accidents in Kerala, the outcome is severe since they carry more people. Road safety experts say it is this factor that has prompted the Government to enforce the seat belts from August 1.

In crashes, manual lap-shoulder belts are approximately 45 per cent effective in reducing fatalities in passenger cars and 60 per cent effective in light trucks. They are estimated to reduce the risk of serious injury to the head, chest and extremities by 50 to 83 per cent. Lap belts alone are estimated to be 17 to 58 per cent effective in preventing death.

Even though seat belts have been made mandatory for all the occupants of car and other four-wheelers, the belts are seldom used in the capital, partly owing to the reluctance on the part of the agencies in enforcing it.

Poor record

A study by the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (Natpac) in eight busy stretches in the capital revealed that the level of seat-belt use, by both drivers and passengers, was low in Kazhakuttom, Pattom-Kesavadasapuram Road, M. G. Road. M. C. Road, Medical College junction, Vellayambalam, Palayam and Thampanoor-Overbridge.

Lack of awareness about the risks involved and movement constraints are cited as reasons for poor compliance.

Ideal belt

According to the Chief Project Coordinator, Natpac, Mahesh Chand, seat belt should not be too tight or too loose.

It should fit comfortably and should be able to hold the person in place during the collision.

The lap portion of the seat belt should be flat across the lap and as low as possible on the hips.

The shoulder portion should directly come over the bony shoulder area and down across the torso, Dr. Chand adds.

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