Seat belts and air bags are crucial automotive safety devices designed to prevent or minimize injury in the event of a car accident. Drivers and passengers too often fail to use these devices on a consistent basis. However, their use can significantly reduce the risk of personal injury and fatalities.
Nearly 15,000 lives were saved in 2017 through the use of seat belts in passenger vehicles. Even though seat belts don’t wear out as fast as other parts of a vehicle that need routine servicing, there are some situations in which seat belts should actually be replaced.
The seat belt – a single use item
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) considers seat belts, just like airbags and car seats, as single-use items. Seat belts are designed to work one time only, immobilizing and protecting drivers and passengers in the event of an auto accident.
Seat belt technology has advanced significantly from when they were first installed in vehicles decades ago. Early on, the inclusion of seat belts and cars was optional. Eventually, however, it became standard in all manufactured vehicles. Seat belts have undergone redesigns numerous times since those early days to make them more effective than ever.
These safety devices have what’s called a pretensioner that winds back slack on the seat belt. Pretensioners tighten the belt preemptively to prevent the driver or passenger from jerking forward at the moment of impact. They’re set to activate based on a particular rate of deceleration of the vehicle Seat belts also have locking retractors that provide the vehicle occupant with a certain amount of movement while also limiting that movement during a crash. During severe deceleration, retractors that have inertial locking mechanisms prevent the belt from moving off the reel.
It’s important to note, however, that the safety belt components mentioned above may only be expected to work effectively one time. After a car crash, the ability of the retractors and pretensioners to work effectively may be diminished. In addition, the fabric of the seat belt itself may have stretched to a certain degree during a crash.
Replacing seat belts after a crash
For the above mentioned reasons, it is highly advisable to replace any seat belts that were used in a car accident to ensure future occupants are afforded the same level of protection in any future collision. Some manufacturers may recommend changing all of the seat belts in the vehicle after a crash even if those belts were not used during the crash. Drivers or passengers may find recommendations in the vehicle’s owner’s manual regarding when to replace seat belts or a dealership may provide recommendations.
Frayed seat belts cannot be expected to operate properly, regardless of whether they were worn during a car crash. They should be replaced. Drivers may consider replacing seat belts that have been used consistently for a decade or more, no matter what the condition of the vehicle. Some seat belts may have a built-in indicator that reveals whether they have been stretched during regular wear and should be replaced.
Remember, seat belts are only guaranteed to function correctly if they are in their originally intended, manufactured condition. Just one car accident can easily change the condition of seat belts and their effectiveness to save lives.
At Warren & Kallianos, PLLC, we have wide-ranging experience representing victims of car accidents, helping them obtain the compensation they deserve for their injuries. If you have sustained an injury in a car crash you suspect involves a defective seat belt, our Charlotte car accident attorneys can help you pursue the maximum amount you are owed. To arrange a free evaluation of your case, give us a call today at 704.275.5593 or fill out our contact form.