Unbiased news and research about road traffic safety for kids

What happens in a car crash and how seat-belts work

In order to understand the importance of seat belts and child restraints/car seats for kids I thought a short summary of the events in a car crash is in order. This information is based on the World Health Organization’s material for people working with traffic policy making.

The three collisions in a crash

When a crash occurs, a car occupant without a seat-belt will continue to move at the same speed at which the vehicle was travelling before the collision and will be catapulted forward into the structure of the vehicle – most likely into the steering wheel if they are driving, or into the back of the front seats if they are rear seat passengers.

Events of a car crash: 1. impact with other vehicle, 2. body strikes interior, 3.  internal organ strikes body wall

There are three collisions that occur in every crash where a person isn’t wearing a seat-belt. The first collision involves the vehicle and another object, e.g. another vehicle, tree, signpost, ditch or or animal. The second collision occurs between the unbelted person and the vehicle interior, e.g. the driver hits his chest on the steering wheel or his head on the window. Finally, the third collision occurs when the internal organs of the body hit the chest wall or the skeleton. It is the second collision that is most responsible for injuries, and can be reduced significantly by the use of seat-belts and child restraints. The most serious injuries in a car crash are to the head, followed by the chest and the abdomen.

Seat-belts to the rescue

The use of seat-belts and child restraints is one of the most important actions that can be taken to prevent serious injury in a car  crash. While seat-belts and child restraints do not prevent crashes from taking place, they play a major role in reducing the severity of injury to vehicle occupants involved in a collision. An occupant’s chance of survival increases dramatically when appropriately restrained.

Since the 1960s studies  throughout the world have shown that seat-belts save lives.  A review of research on the effectiveness of seat-belts found that their use reduces the probability of being killed by 40–50% for drivers and front seat passengers and by about 25% for passengers in rear seats. The impact on serious injuries is almost as great, while the effect on slight injuries is smaller at 20–30%.

1 Comment to What happens in a car crash and how seat-belts work

  1. May 17, 2011 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Thank you for posting this informative article. I was really interested upon reading the three-collision part of the post. I believe that the proper use of seat belts is also a major key in maximizing its efficiency as a safety measure. I often see other people just putting on a seat belt and not adjusting it according to their fit. My friend, for example, likes to seat at the front passenger section of a car, but he doesn’t adjust it according to his size. Even though the restraining belt is way too loose, it doesn’t bother him at all. I corrected him, but he took it lightly and said that it doesn’t matter, as long as he got the belts on.

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