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Making seat belts safer

Auto accidents are scary. The surprise jolt causes anxiety, the impact causes flashbacks and various physical injuries can hurt for anywhere from a few days to the rest of your life. Getting from Point A to Point B is a simple process in the modern era, but the lasting effects when something goes wrong are severe.

Driving regulations are there to make drivers and passengers safer. Air bags, speed limits, controlled intersections and even the shape and design of cars takes safety into account, but the fact is that people come in all shapes and sizes. From the world's tallest (8'3") to the shortest (21.5"), every body has different needs and responses in a car crash. Children's car seats are regulated for a reason, but as kids graduate to the passenger seat, a car's interior isn't always optimal for different body types.

Seat belt safety and design

Seatbelts are designed for the average 40 year-old man, which means their waist and shoulder straps are not always aligned with the bodies of smaller individuals such as senior citizens. Not only are senior citizens a growing percentage of the population, they are often more vulnerable to injury based on health conditions and decreased strength. Fatalities are 17 times higher for seniors than for 25 to 64 year-olds despite showing safer driving habits.

There is no doubting that seat belts save lives, with roughly 14,000 saved over the past year alone. However, other injuries are caused when impact causes a stationary passenger to jolt forward against the restraint. A 180-pound individual is going to move differently than a 100-pound passenger every time. Given the weaker skeletal and muscular systems of many seniors, these added pressures on the ribcage and thorax area can have their own lasting effects. A life may be saved but additional injuries are caused in exchange.

Redesign

Engineers and safety experts would like to see more adjustable elements to fit different drivers because of the fallible nature of the one-size-fits-all method. Cars are tools of daily life and wonders of humankind's prowess and they continue to evolve along with technology. Amid talk of driverless cars and drones, it's realistic to see seat belt and other safety improvements coming in the future as well.

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