As per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 600 aging adults are involved in auto accidents every day. Car accidents can result in severe and disabling injuries for older drivers. This is largely because current seat belt designs do not account for the special needs of the aging population. With frailer bodies, seniors need a more advanced level of protection and restraints that are more in line with the nature and nuances of their bodies. Fortunately, new efforts are being made to revamp current seat belt designs with the overarching goal of making them better-suited to elderly motorists. The Chula Vista auto insurance experts at American Tri-Star discuss the effects of current seat belts on seniors and how this new design will address these issues.
The Problem with Current Seat Belt Designs
When seat belts were initially introduced, they were tested in simulations that accounted for the physical makeup of the averaged-sized man. As such, their overall effectiveness was rated for an approximately 40-year-old male weighing 170 pounds. In short, current seat belts are designed to accommodate a physique that’s significantly more durable and larger than that of the typical senior citizen. Not only does this design make these restraints less effective for aging adults, but it can also lead to serious harm in a high-impact crash. This is particularly true when seat belts are not properly adjusted to fit the frame of the individual passenger. Belts that are positioned high up near the neck can result in major neck and thorax injuries, and restraints that are positioned directly under the arms can lead to fractured ribs. Injuries caused by seat belt restraints can be especially problematic for elderly people with existing chronic respiratory issues.
For seniors, current restraints may increase the amount of harm sustained during an accident by placing an exorbitant amount of pressure on the thorax, neck, lungs, and other parts of the upper body. To address this concern, auto manufacturers are now using crash test dummies that reflect the likely physical dimensions and increased frailty of the aging demographic. The overarching goal of these efforts is to create a restraint that does more good than harm.
New Seat Belt Designs
In addition to testing restraints on crash dummies that are modeled after the typical aging adult’s dimensions and likely physical conditions, auto manufacturers are also making a greater effort to understand how auto accidents are likely to affect seniors. One change being made to existing seat belt designs involves the development of inflatable restraints. These new restraints will spread impact forces over a much larger area of the body, rather than focusing solely on the upper chest. This will ideally minimize pressure on the throat, lungs, and ribs so injuries sustained as the result of restraints are far less severe. However, until these new restraints are available, aging adults should continue wearing their current seat belts while making a concerted effort to ensure they are always adjusted to provide a proper and comfortable fit.
No matter what your age, if you drive, you need insurance. For free car insurance quotes, Chula Vista residents can give Tri-Star Insurance a call at 619-827-0522. One of our friendly agents would be happy to assist you.