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Have you been using your seatbelt incorrectly?

Using a seatbelt is so simple that it's not even covered in most driver's education classes. You pull the shoulder and lap belt across your body and click the tongue into the buckle. When you hear the click of the tongue in the buckle, you release the slack in the belt and the belt tightens to support your body. According to one Maryland State Trooper, however, most people don't know about the critical second step.

A Maryland State Trooper recently shared with a local news reporter that there really should be two clicks that you listen for.

Instead of stopping after the first click, passengers should instead pull the shoulder strap forward until the retractor, the mechanism that houses the seat belt, clicks. At that point, release the slack in the belt again so that it tightens to support your body. According to the trooper, the seatbelt will now be set to catch faster in the event of a crash. Having the seatbelt catch your body sooner means that you remain a safer distance from the rapidly deploying airbag.

As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has long publicized, buckling up is the most important way of protecting yourself in a crash. Without seatbelts, the NHTSA estimates that 14,668 more lives would have been lost to motor vehicle accidents in 2016. When it comes to seatbelt safety, the NHTSA recommends the following:

NHTSA seatbelt recommendations

  • Wear your seatbelt across the pelvis and rib cage
  • Ensure that the shoulder strap does is away from your neck
  • Avoid internal organ damage: keep the belt on your hips, not stomach
  • Talk to an expert about the fit of the seatbelt if you are unsure
  • Pregnant women should wear seatbelts but adjust the seat to increase distance between their belly and the wheel.

When it comes to motor vehicle safety, wearing a seatbelt is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself. It seems that the added seconds it would take to follow these recommendations is well worth it.

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Joel L. Katz, L.L.C.
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