How Your Seatbelt Can Hurt You

Teenage boy buckling up

Cropped image. State Farm, Flickr. CC License.

With all of the attention surrounding texting and driving prevention, discussing proper seatbelt use with your teen may be overlooked.

Michigan law allows rear passengers 16 years and over to not wear a seatbelt, but physics don’t change because of age. Unrestrained passengers are not only risking their own lives, but they can injure other restrained passengers during an accident as their entire body weight is thrown around the vehicle during a crash.

While it’s important to wear a seatbelt, it’s just as important to wear it properly! The Michigan State Police (MSP) describes “properly” as: “The lap portion of a lap/shoulder belt must be worn low and snug across the hips, and the shoulder portion must be snug across the chest, away from the neck and face. The shoulder portion should never be worn behind the back or under the arm.” Improper seatbelt use offers the same penalty as no seatbelt use in the state of Michigan, a $65 ticket.

Even worse than penalty, wearing a seatbelt improperly can cause serious head, abdominal and spinal cord injuries. Take a look at this video of a crash test dummy wearing only a lap belt. As you can see, all of the pressure is put on that one spot, allowing for force to be applied to the abdominal and spinal cord region, and the lack of shoulder restraint causes the head to strike the seat in front of him.

Tips to ensure proper seatbelt compliance:

  • Adjust the seat and seatbelt height if possible to ensure a good fit.
  • Consider that younger kids may still need to be in a booster, even after age 8 or 4’9” to get a proper fit.
  • Discuss the importance of making sure every passenger is buckled up before the car moves. If your child is old and mature enough to handle it, this video demonstrates what may happen in the event of an accident if anyone is not buckled.
  • Be a good role model! Always wear your seatbelt and make sure your passengers do too.
  • If your vehicle has any lap-only belts, this is an unsafe seating position for passengers.  Please note: You may safely use a lap-only belt to secure a car seat with a 5-point harness. Booster seats require a lap-shoulder belt.
  • Pregnant women should always wear a seatbelt, making sure the lap belt portion is under the belly across the hips and pelvic bones. See this flyer for further information on buckling up while pregnant.

– Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health System

1 Response to “How Your Seatbelt Can Hurt You”


  1. 1 Anonymous December 9, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    Nice reminders and new take-aways. Thank you for your dedicated time and leading the way in prevention.


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