Do seat belts work?

You know it’s the law that you wear your seat belt when you drive, and you follow it. That doesn’t stop you from wondering if it’s going to work, though. Can this thin strap actually keep you alive in a crash?

Plus, we have all met that person who claims it’s safer to drive without a seat belt. They usually describe some unlikely scenario, just as getting thrown from a crashing car before it catches on fire, meaning that the lack of a seat belt saved their life.

What you should know is that time and time again, studies have shown that seat belts do work. People with lap belts, for instance, have a 73% lower rate of death in accidents than those who do not wear their belts at all. Those with three-point belts saw 60% fewer serious injuries and their total injury rate — including minor injuries — was 41% lower.

There is a reason that wearing a seat belt is mandated by law. It can save your life. It can reduce the severity of your injuries. Your car has many other systems designed to do the same thing, such as crumple zones and airbags, but the seat belt is that first line of defense.

Of course, that does not mean that a seat belt will prevent all injuries. It may save your life, but it could still leave you with a broken back, a head injury or burn injuries. These can be catastrophic. That’s preferable compared to the alternative of passing away in the accident, but it still leaves you with significant medical and financial hurdles to overcome. Be sure you know your rights.