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How can Seat Belts Be Made Safer?

If you’re of a certain age, you may have memories of riding in the back seat of your parents’ car completely unencumbered by any kind of constraints, including seat belts. Life has changed since that time. Though each individual state has its own laws for seat belt use, it was back in 1968 that federal law required that all vehicles be equipped with seat belts, and since then there have been multiple revisions designed to make riding in a vehicle safer for passengers. Today all passenger and driver seats have to be equipped with three-point seat belts, which are considered to be the gold standard for safety. But even though this type of belt has been proven to save lives, they are also known to cause seat belt injuries. As personal injury attorneys, the professionals at Jonathan Perkins Injury Lawyers has represented many people who have been injured by seat belts. There are a number of ways that seat belts can be made safer, and we look forward to the time when some of these planned innovations become reality.

According to Christ Hostetter, Toyota’s vice president of strategic planning, better seat belts are definitely in our future. Speaking a few years ago at the Aspen Ideas Festival, he spoke about the history of the seat belt and what he sees coming. “Seat belts have gone through evolutions,” he explained, talking about the first design back in 1885 and tracing the technology to today’s three-point belt, which was first introduced by Volvo in 1959. He says that since then the belts have been made a little bit safer, but still need improvement.  In the future he sees a more customized belt. “We might design seatbelts for the individual driver,” he says. “There could be seatbelts for children. There could be seatbelts that account for the way people actually sit in the car. So the technology of the seatbelt will go from those two dimensions of retention and force limiting to perhaps being customized to the driver himself.”

What does this mean in effect? Well, the car’s seat may be able to sense the passenger’s height and weight and adjust itself to that in much the same way that modern cars have occupant classification systems. These are pressure sensors built into the front passenger seats. They not only can tell if you are wearing a seat belt, but also sense weight, and adjust accordingly. These weight monitors specifically protect children or small adults from being injured by a fully deployed airbag.

Seat belts save lives, but they have also been found responsible for a number of seat belt injuries, including rib and chest injury, heavy bruising to the stomach, shoulder injury and more. In some cases this is a result of the belt not being positioned properly by the wearer, while in others it is caused by a defect in the seat design. At Jonathan Perkins Injury Lawyers, we look forward to improvements in seat belt design that will increase safety and cut down on injuries.


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