Which Car Seat Belt Types Are the Most Reliable?

February 15, 2012

Not all seat belts offer the same protection. Learn what to look for in a seat belt, and which states have primary and secondary seat belt laws.

Seat Belt In Use

Safe driving is not only about using proper technique and caution, but it is also about consistently using safety equipment, such as a seat belt. Although many drivers simply buckle up to comply with their local seat belt laws, the truth is that buckling your seat belt could very well save your life or help you avoid a needless critical injury. Replacement seat belts are available and should be ordered immediately if your car has a safety restraint system that is not completely operational. In addition, some older vehicles are in desperate need of a seat belt upgrade.

Older vehicles that merely use lap belts should be upgraded to a good set of replacement seat belts that include a shoulder strap. The lack of a shoulder strap can cause critical injury in the event of a collision, so reliable belts must include a three point harness.

Three Point Harness
While most people believe that any seat belt is better than none, the truth is that an improperly functioning restraint is not only unreliable, but dangerous as well. A three point harness is the most reliable type of seat belt and provides support to both the lower and upper body. Many drivers allow children to tuck the shoulder belt behind them for comfort, but this is not an acceptable practice. A properly installed booster seat will help position the seat belt comfortably.

The most reliable types of seat belts in a car are three point harness systems that are fully functioning and utilized every time the vehicle is driven. In addition to obeying seat belt laws, buckling up can save a life.

3 Tips for Proper Seat Belt Safety

Seat belt safety is extremely important for any person in the car. Car safety starts with your seat belts, as they can ensure that you stay in the car in the event of a collision that is very forceful. The more tips you have, the better off you can be.

Seat Belt Placement
When placing the belt across your chest it should lie comfortably over the mid-point of your shoulder, come down across the mid-chest region to the waist. The lap belt should lie across the waist area just slightly above your legs.

The seat belt should be firmly pulled against your body, but not so tight that it constricts movement or breathing. In the event of an accident, this correct positioning gives the proper support to your upper and lower body to keep you in the seat and in a safe position for the other safety features in the car, like airbags, to correctly function. If the belt is worn improperly it can actually make your injuries worse. For example, wearing the lap belt and pushing the chest portion behind your back while driving can be extremely dangerous. Without the chest belt you can be thrown forward into the steering wheel or dashboard.

Don't think that just because your car has airbags, you are safe. The misconception is that the airbag will also keep you in the car. However, the seat belt helps ensure you are a far enough away so that when you get hit with the airbag, serious injury does not occur. If you are not wearing a seat belt, the airbag can injure or even kill you, believe it or not.

Child Seat Belt Safety
Car accidents are one of the highest causes of death for children in the range of 4 to 14 years old. This is attributed to poor safety measures. This includes not wearing a seat belt, and misuse of a car seat (booster seat, restraints, etc.). Only one or two children out of 10 actually are employing the correct safety measures. Each state has laws for young children and how they need to be properly seated, depending on their age and weight. Infants should always be in a rear facing seat. Children from one to four should be in a forward facing seat. From ages four to eight, a booster seat is recommended. No child should sit in the front seat until he or she is four-feet, eleven-inches tall.

States with Primary or Secondary Seat Belt Laws

There is no set of nationally regulated seat belt laws. Rather, different states have their own laws in this regard, and they are generally split up into two categories. A primary seat belt law is one that allows a police officer to stop a car and issue a ticket to an adult who is not wearing a seat belt, even if there is no other traffic violation occurring. A secondary seat belt law requires that there be another violation at the same time in order for the adult to be penalized.

Primary Seat Belt Laws
More than half of the states have primary seat belt laws. Keep in mind, however, that the exact fines for these laws vary from state to state. The age at which the law classifies the driver as an adult also varies from state to state. Check with your local DMV on this matter. For safety's sake, wear a seat belt at all times, regardless of your state's laws.

The states with primary seat belt laws are:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Secondary Seat Belt Laws
The states with secondary seat belt laws are:

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Massachusetts
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

New Hampshire is unique among the states because it has neither a primary nor a secondary seat belt law. However, there is still a requirement that all passengers under the age of 18 wear a seat belt or be situated in an appropriate infant seat carrier. For more information about your state's law, contact the DMV.

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