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Can seat belts be a safety hazard?

Disputing the safety of seat belts is a tall claim, but an Ohio professor sees room for improvement. The belts saved an estimated 14,000 lives in 2015, but they also caused collateral damage in their restraints. The problem isn't that seat belts are unsafe, per se, it's that they are built for the average 40-year-old man.

Increased seat belt usage has saved countless lives. The restraints work. That's why we have children's car seat laws based on height and weight. Seat belts, though, carry no similar limitations despite their universal design. A 70 year-old man and a 21 year-old woman have very different body types than the average 40 year-old man, and this is an area where safety can be improved.

The problem is that restraints can cause other damage. Passengers and drivers won't be projected out of their vehicle, but the belt can put too much pressure on the ribcage, neck, stomach and other body parts when it's activated. Saving a life is the goal, but there shouldn't be additional, life-altering physical damages caused by a safety measure.

Body types

According to the CDC, the average American man (age 20 or older), is about 5'9" and 195 pounds. The average woman is just under 5'4" and 166 pounds. With a difference of five inches in height and 30 pounds, there's no doubt that a seat belt will fit a man different than a woman, not to mention the difference in body types from sex and age.

Senior citizens have smaller frames and are more vulnerable to injury and, significantly, are a growing segment of US population.

An aging population

The Baby Boomer generation is retiring and it's shifting how we view things. It's estimated that in 2030 Colorado will have over 500,000 more senior citizens than today, a 68 percent increase. The senior population is growing and this creates a new social dynamic where senior citizens will be a larger consumer pool and overall part of the population.

Without question, seat belts save lives. The issue is their use and fit. Are today's seat belts adequate for bodies of all sizes, or can they actually make matters worse?

Some injuries are immediately clear, but others take time to surface or can be difficult to determine causation. Insurance companies have their own business interests in mind and will seek the best settlement for their company, not for you as an individual. If you've been injured in an accident, a consultation with an attorney will answer if there is legal recourse for your injuries, however simple or complicated they may be.

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