Seatbelts save more than 13,000 lives every year in this country, but they can do so only if you wear them the right way. In fact, using your seatbelt improperly isn't always better than not using it at all—you may be setting yourself up for serious injury if you wear your seatbelt in any way other than the way it was designed to be worn.

The right way to wear a seatbelt is to have the shoulder belt pulled over your shoulder and across your chest with the belt up close against the body. The lap belt should also be close against the body and low on the hips. This allows the chest and pelvis to take most of the force of a collision rather than other body parts which might be less able to withstand an impact.

What are some common seatbelt mistakes?

  • Not wearing one at all. You can't rely on your air bag to protect you in a crash. In fact, if you don't wear your seatbelt and you're thrown up against an air bag that's in the midst of opening, you could be seriously injured or killed.
  • Wearing a twisted seatbelt. The belt needs to be flattened to its full width in order to provide adequate protection against collision forces.
  • Wearing a seatbelt loosely. This might cause you to slam against the inside of the car in an impact.
  • Wearing the shoulder belt under your arm or behind your back. You won't be adequately restrained and might hit the inside of the car or be thrown from the car.
  • Wearing a lap belt across your stomach. If there's a collision, you have a good chance of sustaining a soft-tissue injury to your abdomen. Pregnant women should be especially careful not to fasten the seatbelt directly around their abdomen but to keep it lower, toward their pelvic bones.

When shopping for a car, don't assume that the seatbelt will automatically be a good fit for you. Evaluate the fit of the seatbelt in the same way you test the way the car handles. Your dealer may be able to get you a seatbelt adjuster if you're not comfortable in the belt. And if you drive an older car that has only lap belts, definitely check with your car manufacturer about getting lap/shoulder seatbelts installed.



National Highway Traffic Safety;

Ontario Ministry of Transportation