Along with a secure vehicle structure to protect occupants in a rollover, properly designed seat belts are necessary to reduce injuries and prevent partial or complete ejection. However, many seat belts are not designed to keep occupants from hitting a vehicle’s interior during a rollover.
Most manufacturers do not test their vehicles’ restraint systems to evaluate seat belt protection in rollovers. Many seat belt designs have poor geometry, so when the belted occupant becomes upside down in a rollover, he or she moves toward the roof. No federal safety standard governs how an occupant restraint system must perform in a rollover accident, even though most Americans use seat belts.
A restraint system should function in a rollover to keep the occupant in his or her seat and away from the roof’s interior components and to prevent partial ejection. In a 1996 study using human volunteers in a device that simulated rollovers, standard seat belts were compared to the seat belts with improved geometry. The latter lessened the distance that occupants moved toward the roof by as much as 75 percent.
The researchers also determined that shoulder belts have a positive influence on occupant movement in a rollover. Shoulder belts should be mounted into the seats themselves rather than mounted onto the vehicle’s structure because they allow less occupant movement in a rollover. Other researchers have found that pretensioners, devices that pull and tighten the seat belt in an accident, and improved geometry can reduce occupant movement in a rollover.
Seat Belt Designs and Occupant Injury
Several defective seat belt designs may contribute to occupant injury in a rollover.
- Poor anchoring location. A seat belt that is anchored too far from the seat and the occupant may not provide effective restraint because this design allows too much slack in the belt.
- Seat belt retractors that either fail to lock or only partially lock. This also causes excessive slack.
- Seat belt buckles that inertially unlatch during dynamic loading conditions including rollover.
The vehicle’s structure must preserve the occupant survival space. In this way, the vehicle contains the occupant in a shell that does not collapse on him or her in a rollover. But a good structure will not prevent injury if the movement of the occupant is not constrained and the occupant hits his or her head on the roof of the vehicle.
In An Accident, It Is Important to Understand How the Seat Belt Functioned
Did the seatbelt to keep the occupant properly restrained? Or was there so much slack that the occupant was thrown around in injured in the process? Or did the seat belt the fail completely because of a defective seat belt latch or in some other manner?
In the course of an accident investigation, we want to understand the answers to all these questions.
Our firm represents individuals severely injured and the families of those killed in car accidents, truck accidents, and other accidents. If you have suffered an accident, or if a loved one has been killed in an accident, please call us so that we can learn about your case and begin the process of seeking compensation for your damages. We will meet with you for a free, no-obligation private consultation so that we can learn about your case. There is no fee to us unless we recover for you.