The BC Coroners Service is urging all drivers and passengers in vehicles to use their seatbelts at all times, especially in light of new research.
The Coroners Service has just completed a detailed study of fatal motor vehicle crashes in the Interior of the province that shows while 90 percent of BC drivers and passengers wear their seatbelts regularly, a high proportion – 40 percent – of those who died were not wearing seatbelts.
Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe noted that studies throughout North America have consistently concluded that wearing a seatbelt correctly is the most effective single step vehicle occupants can take to prevent death in the event of a crash. The deaths of those who died despite correct seatbelt use confirm that some crashes are so devastating that no amount of safety equipment can save the occupants. However, coroners who attended the crashes described many examples in which seatbelt use would almost certainly have saved lives – people who were thrown through windshields, thrown around inside a vehicle, or ejected from a vehicle. The Interior study mirrors numerous studies which show that failure to wear a seatbelt significantly increases the risk of serious injury and death, independent of other factors in the crash.
The study looked in detail at fatal motor vehicle crashes for 2010 in the Interior Region of BC, a total of 85 deaths. (Crashes involving motorcycles, cyclists or pedestrians were not included.) Of the 85 cases, only 47 per cent were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash, 41 per cent were definitely not, and seatbelt usage was unknown in 12 per cent of the cases.
Total number of deaths investigated: 85. The Coroners Service says:
- Of those, 62 per cent were drivers, and 35 per cent were passengers. In two per cent of cases, it could not be determined definitively who had been the driver in the crash.
- Of those who died, 62 per cent were male, and 38 per cent were female.
- Gender made little difference as to whether or not someone wore their seatbelt. Of the males who died, 45 per cent were wearing seatbelts, and 41.5 percent were not wearing them, with seatbelt usage unknown for 13.5 per cent. Of the females who died, 50 per cent were wearing them, and 41 per cent were not, with usage unknown for nine per cent.
- Persons involved in a crash in which the driver was impaired by alcohol or drugs were significantly less likely to have been wearing their seatbelt. In cases in which impairment was a factor, only 25 per cent of those who died had been wearing their seatbelts. Sixty-four per cent had not, and usage was unknown for 11 per cent. But in cases in which impairment was not a factor, 58 per cent were wearing their seatbelts, 30 per cent were not, and usage was unknown in 12 per cent.
- Tourists and persons who did not live in the BC Interior were significantly more likely to have been wearing their seatbelts than local residents. Of persons from outside the region, 61 per cent were wearing their seatbelts, 29 per cent were not, and usage was unknown for 11 per cent. For local residents, only 37 per cent were wearing their seatbelts, 49 per cent were not, and usage was unknown for 14 per cent. This mirrors the finding of many studies which show persons are more likely to wear seatbelts on lengthy trips, such as highway driving, than on short trips around their home communities.
In light of the survey findings, ICBC, the province’s auto insurer, is reminding passengers and drivers of five important facts about seatbelts:
No. 1 – Best protection. Seatbelts continue to be the single most effective protective device in your vehicle. An unbuckled 68 kg (150 lbs) adult involved in a 50 km/h frontal crash with a stationary object will strike other occupants, the interior of the vehicle or be ejected with the equivalent force of a 3.5 ton truck. If you are ejected, you are 25 times more likely to be killed or injured. Even in vehicles equipped with airbags, seatbelts are still a necessity. Airbags were designed to work in conjunction with seatbelts, not replace them.
No. 2 – Take notice. Even drivers who are buckled up have five times the risk of dying in a crash if their rear seat passengers are not wearing seatbelts, according to a Japanese research paper. Always remind those in the vehicle to buckle up – it could save your life. Eighty per cent of the deaths from these types of crashes could have been eliminated if the rear seat passengers had been buckled up.
No. 3 – Keep kids safe. A correctly used child seat reduces the risk of being killed in a crash by 71 per cent and the risk of serious injury by 67 per cent. In B.C., all children over 18kg (40lbs.) must be in booster seats until they are 1.45 metres (4’9”) tall or age nine. Be a role model for your children by always wearing your seatbelt and reminding older children to buckle up every time they get into a vehicle.
No. 4 – Never double buckle. Always use a seatbelt for its intended use – never restrain multiple passengers with one belt. The force of a crash will throw both passengers violently together as their bodies attempt to occupy the same space.
No. 5 – Lock it up. All unrestrained objects – pets included – are a hazard in the event of a crash. If you need to transport your pet, use an animal carrier and if possible, restrain the carrier. Never leave unrestrained objects in your vehicle as they can become projectiles in a crash.
The fine for not wearing a seatbelt is $167.