Defective Seatbelt Not a Lifesaver


For decades we have heard about the importance of “buckling up” when we sit in our cars, whether we’re driving or simply riding as a passenger, and we have all seen the commercials with police officers describing the horrible and possible deadly result of not wearing your seatbelt. Furthermore, in many states, the law states that all occupants of a vehicle must wear a seatbelt or a ticket with a nominal fee can be issued.

Driving or riding in a car with a buckled seatbelt usually provides the feeling that we are safer should we be involved in a car accident. However, recent laboratory testing has shown that seatbelts can unlatch under certain crash conditions, but proving a seatbelt became unlatched during an impact is very difficult. For this reason, the vehicle, seatbelt, and the scene of the accident must be evaluated as soon after the crash as possible.

Most incidents with seatbelts becoming unlatched involve the buckle or retractor. There have been occurrences where the seatbelt has simply come unlatched on impact, and another problem is a buckle appearing to be latched but not being fully secure. This is referred to as “false latch.” Another common problem is when the belt unspools in a collision, and the wearer of the belt slips right under or over the belt.

When a victim of a car accident is ejected from the vehicle, is it assumed that no seatbelt was being worn. This is not necessarily the case, and tragic injuries and deaths caused by a defective seatbelt should not be compounded by an inadequate investigation.