Although many automobile accidents are unavoidable, most
of them are survivable, provided a person has taken the necessary
precaution of "buckling up" first - wearing a seat belt or
strapping your child into a car seat. In rare instances, however,
a person wearing the proper restraints can be injured or even
killed when an unrestrained passenger in the same car careens
forward, backward or sideways into the restrained person during
study in the Journal of the American Medical Association
examined the effect an unrestrained person can have on the
outcome of an otherwise "routine" automobile accident. In
the study, researchers analyzed data on all car crashes on
public roads in the U.S. between 1988 and 2000 that resulted
in the death of at least one person, within 30 days of the
accident. A variety of configurations were used in the analysis,
including the number of occupants in the car, the sex and
location of each occupant, seat position, whether an occupant
was restrained, and whether the car was hit from the front,
rear, or side.
Occupants who were restrained in the front seat of a car
were 20 percent more likely to die with an unrestrained passenger
behind them, compared to a restrained passenger. Similarly,
a restrained passenger in the rear of the car was 22 percent
more likely to be killed with an unrestrained occupant in
front of them versus a restrained occupant. Similar results
were seen in side-impact and angle crashes.
If the information above sounds confusing, the message isn't:
If you want to increase your odds of surviving an automobile
accident, make sure you - and everyone else who drives with
you - use a seat belt, child-safety seat or other restraining
device. It really could be a matter of life and death.
Cummings P, Rivara FP. Car occupant death according to the
restraint use of other occupants. A matched cohort study.
Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 21,
2004;291(3), pp. 343-349.
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