Global Road Safety Target:
Buckling your seat belt is the one of simplest and most effective ways to save lives and minimize injuries to yourself or another vehicle occupants during a crash or sudden harsh braking event.
The science of seat belt safety
When you sit in a moving vehicle you and the vehicle are two separate objects moving at the same speed.
If the vehicle you are in hits an object such as a post, tree etc; another vehicle, pedestrian, or animal; or rolls over, it stops. However, inside the vehicle unrestrained occupants (driver or passengers not wearing a seat belt) continue to move forward at the same speed the vehicle was traveling until something causes their body to stop – the windshield/windscreen, steering wheel, dashboard, seat, another occupant, or the pavement outside the vehicle.
Seat belt global best practice
The World Health Organization (WHO) global best practice standard is seat belt laws covering vehicle occupants in both front and rear seats and enforcement of these laws.
A recent WHO survey of 180 countries found that 111 countries have seat belt laws that met this standard. This covers 4.8 billion people.
Currently, Pakistan is not one of those countries.
Pakistan seat belt law
In Pakistan the current law mandates seat belt wearing by the driver only.
Part II Section (v) of the 8th Schedule to the National Highways Safety Ordinance states that a driver shall not drive a vehicle without seatbelts fitted.
Section 89-B (1) of the PMVO states that a person driving a motor car, motor cab, light or heavy transport vehicle must have a fastened seatbelt. The penalty for a driver detected not wearing a seat belt is a 300 rupee fine.
Improving seat belt use:
To improve seat belt use, Pakistan will require a coordinated program of action to address:
- Seat belt laws for all occupants
- Police enforcement
- Campaigns targeting front and rear seat occupants
- Vehicle standard laws requiring all vehicles to be fitted with seat belts
Although current law only requires drivers to wear a seat belt, during a crash or sudden harsh braking event the use of seat belts by front and rear seat passengers directly affects the level of injury to themselves, to other passengers and to the driver.
An unrestrained passenger poses a serious threat to any restrained person. Front and rear seat passengers who use seat belts not only reduce the likelihood and severity of injury to themselves, but also to others travelling in the vehicle.
How a seat belt keeps you safe
There are three ‘collisions’ that occur in every crash where vehicle occupants are unrestrained:
- The first collision involves the vehicle and another object, e.g. another vehicle, a stationary object (light pole, signpost, barrier, ditch), or a human or animal.
- The second collision occurs when the unrestrained occupant keeps moving at the same speed at which the vehicle was travelling before the crash until it hits the vehicle interior, another occupant or is ejected from the vehicle and hits the pavement or road furniture etc.
- The third collision occurs when the vital organs (heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and brain) inside the unrestrained body keep moving until they hit against the chest wall or skeletal structure.
The second collision is responsible for most deaths and injuries. These can be reduced significantly by seat belt use.
A seat belt is made from flexible webbing that expands slightly to absorb crash force. During a crash, vehicle occupants wearing a seat belt will be kept in their seat and thus their body will reduce speed at the same rate as the vehicle. Crash forces are spread through the seat belt and over the body, and so vital organs inside the body are protected.
Injuries to drivers and passengers
In a frontal impact or ‘head on’ crash, the most frequent and most serious injuries to unrestrained occupants in both front and rear seats are to the head (brain), chest (heart & lungs), and abdomen (liver and kidneys). The most frequent disabling injuries are to the leg and neck.
Head injuries make up about 60% of all injuries to unrestrained vehicle occupants. Passengers in rear seats may think they are safer there. However, research shows that rear seat passengers who do not use a seat belt suffer about the same percentage of head injuries as drivers and front seat passengers who do not use a seat belt.
Seat belts as protection against ejection from a vehicle
In ‘head on’ and ‘run off road’ crashes, unrestrained occupants can be ejected from the vehicle completely and will only stop moving when they hit the pavement/ground or an object such as a pole, the kerb, or another vehicle. Being ejected from a vehicle drastically increases the probability of sustaining a severe injury or being killed.
Seat belt use is the best protection against ejection during a crash. Overall, 44% of unrestrained passengers killed during a crash are ejected from the vehicle, partially or totally, as compared to only 5% of restrained occupants.
About three quarters (75%) of all vehicle occupants ejected from a vehicle in a crash die as a result.
Infants and children depend on responsible adults to keep them safe.
Use of child restraints is the simplest and the most effective way to save the lives of infants and young children and minimize injuries resulting from a road crash or sudden harsh braking event, a swerving evasive manoeuvre or a door opening during vehicle movement.
Child restraint systems which meet international standards are specifically designed to protect the fragile bodies of infants and young children.
When securely fastened, they prevent the child’s body from hitting the vehicle structure, another occupant or being ejected from the vehicle. They also distribute crash forces over the strongest parts of the fragile body, with minimum damage to the vital organs and soft tissues.
Infants and children need a child restraint system that accommodates their size and weight, and can adapt to cope with the different stages of their development. It is essential the restraint meets international standards and recommended instructions for installation are carefully followed.
Global best practice
Improving child restraints use
To improve child restraints use, Pakistan will require laws mandating vehicles to have ISOFIX:
- Laws for children under 12 years of age to travel in a rear seat NOT the front seat.
- Child restraints laws requiring infants and children 0-5 years to be secured in a child restraint
- Standards for child restraints
- Regulation of imported child car seats to ensure they meet the standard
- Police enforcements
- Awareness campaign for families, healthcare workers and police.
ISOFIX is the international standard for attachment points for child safety seats in passenger cars.