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Are Seat Belt Extenders Safe?

Keeping driver’s safe is a primary goal for automobile manufacturers, who are constantly being faced with new technologies and issues that need to be addressed. One concern that has increased in the last several years has been how to address the needs of larger passengers. As more and more people have been identified as obese, it has created new needs or almost all aspects of society, from clothing manufacturers to airlines.

Automobile manufacturers have not been immune to this development, as health experts and consumers have noted that standard seat belts can no longer accommodate this sector of the population. Numerous studies have revealed that obesity has a serious impact on the risk of death for drivers and their passengers. Some of this increased risk has to do with the obese person’s overall health and ability to recover following an accident, and some is due to the difference in the way that an obese person’s body is impacted within a vehicle in a crash. Yet another reason is because obese people are less likely to use seat belts because they are either uncomfortable or not big enough to buckle around their body. With seat belts being called the “single most important thing” that can protect drivers and passengers in an accident, manufacturers have begun to offer seat belt extenders for obese passengers. But are seat belt extenders safe?

According to Russ Rader, a spokesperson for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “Seatbelt extenders are a good option for people who can’t comfortably use regular seatbelts.” Though they have not been specifically tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the fact that they both keep occupants from being thrust forward or thrown out of a vehicle is enough to make it worthwhile for them to be worn. Because studies have shown that obese drivers are less likely than normal weight drivers to use seatbelts, it is in everybody’s best interest to provide the opportunity for obese passengers to be able to put on a seatbelt and wear it comfortably, as well as to have it fit properly.

Seatbelts are most effective when they rest close to the bone on the shoulder and in the pelvis, tight across the collarbone and hip. This is not possible for those who are obese, as the belt gets pushed forward and the fit is slack. This means that the passenger gets thrown forward until the belt is connected to the bone and slows them down. This not only creates higher risk of injury, but can also cause seat belt injuries. When seat belts are not worn the risk is even greater. Further, if an obese passenger is seated in the back seat and is not wearing a seat belt, they can cause injury to the driver or front seat passenger who is seated in front of them.

Safety experts indicate that the best way to make sure that a larger passenger is belted and that the belt is worn appropriately may be to purchase a seat belt extender and to make sure that it is placed underneath soft tissue rather than over it. This makes it more effective as well as less likely to cause a seat belt injury. If you have suffered an injury in an auto accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at Jonathan Perkins Injury Lawyers to learn more about your rights.


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