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Differences Between Seat Belts and Passive Restraint Systems

Many of today’s drivers and automobile passengers have no memory of the time when wearing seat belts was not required, but it was 1984 when the first seat belt law went into effect in the United States. Safety equipment in automobiles has changed dramatically over the last several decades: 1964 was the first year that front seat lap belts were required, in 1968 the requirements shifted to including shoulder straps for front seat occupants, and the first airbags were installed by GM as optional equipment in 1974. Airbags became standard equipment in the 1980s, and all of the equipment has been improved upon on a continual basis since. Today’s cars offer a combination of manual and passive restraint systems that are designed to optimize the safety of automobile accidents, and each offers different benefits.

There are many differences between seat belts and passive restraint systems, and it is important to understand the role that each plays. A passive restraint system is one that requires no action on the part of the automobile passenger in order to work. It does not need to be worn or activated – instead it activates automatically at the moment that an accident occurs. The most common example of a passive restraint system found in today’s vehicles is the airbag, though there are some vehicles that were equipped with passive seat belt systems. These belts were attached to vehicle doors and were restricted to shoulder belts. When the passenger would climb into their car seat and closed the car door, the belt would automatically extend around them. Though there were some who believed that these increased security, there were problems with these belts. One of the biggest problems was that people failed to manually buckle their seat belts, either because they became too reliant on the automatic system or felt that they were safe enough with the shoulder strap. By contrast, seat belts are a manual restraint system that requires that the passenger takes independent action in order to ensure their own safety.

Though both manual seat belt systems and passive restraint systems serve the purpose of enhancing passenger safety and saving lives, there have been some instances where both have caused injury. In addition to the defective airbags that have been in the news recently, airbags have caused injuries such as abrasions or contusions of the face and chest, burns of the chest or hands, fractures and lacerations. Some seat belts can cause internal injuries or lacerations of the neck, particularly if they are not positioned properly at the time of impact.  If you or someone you love has been injured by either a passive restraint system or a manual seat belt, you may be eligible to receive compensation. The personal injury attorneys at Jonathan Perkins Injury Lawyers will review your case and let you know whether they believe there was any negligence in your case. Call us today for a free consultation.


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