Road Safety: Seat Belts

Seat belt use was made mandatory in 1976.  Although unpopular in early years, the rate of seat belt use reached 93% in 2006-2007, Quebec ranking 4th among Canadian provinces.  Nevertheless, the statistics are troubling: more than 30% of drivers killed in a fatal crash were not wearing a seat belt.

The best possible protection

Seat belts are internationally recognized for offering the best possible protection for all vehicle occupants.  When used properly, seat belts reduce the risk of death and severe injury in a crash by half. What’s more, when combined, a seat belt and airbag reduce the risk of severe head injury by 75%. 

A properly adjusted seat belt = maximum protection

To be effective, the seat belt has to be properly adjusted. The first thing to do when sitting in a vehicle is to fasten your seat belt: the shoulder strap should rest against the collar bone, not the neck, and the lap belt should be worn across the pelvic bone, not over the abdomen. 

All vehicle occupants – driver and passengers – must buckle up.  Every seat in a vehicle is fitted with a belt, in front as in back.  Children measuring less than 63 cm when sitting (from the buttocks to the crown of the head), should be seated in a booster seat that meets the requirements of the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec. 

Oddly, taxi passengers tend not to buckle up.  Yet, the law is the same: all taxi passengers must wear a seat belt, failing which they may be issued a fine in addition to demerit points. 

It must also be noted that under the Highway Safety Code, pregnant women are required to wear their seat belt at all times.  Some believe that seat belts could endanger the life of the foetus. This is not true! In fact, by limiting upper body movement, the seat belt keeps the mother as far away as possible from the steering wheel or the dashboard.  This is why the Association des obstétriciens et gynécologues du Québec recommends pregnant women always use a seat belt.  

Nothing to do with speed

Many drivers don’t buckle up when driving slowly or over short distances.  And yet, more than half of all road accidents occur in zones where the speed limit is 50km/h or less…  Obviously, this shows you don’t have to go fast to be at risk of being killed or seriously injured in an accident. 

The campaigns of the Société d’assurance automobile du Québec and vast police operations continue to raise public awareness about the importance of wearing a seat belt. And for good cause: if all vehicle occupants wore their seat belts, more than 220 deaths and serious injuries would be avoided every year.