According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), highway injuries and fatalities have declined for the last 10 years. One major reason for this decline is the rapid increase of seat belt use by motor vehicle drivers. Due to the protection it can provide, all U.S. states, with the exception of New Hampshire, now have mandatory seat belt use laws to make sure that motorists will buckle up or face the possibility of getting a citation.

Today, the best safety device that can protect car drivers and passengers from getting injured (or killed) during an accident is still a seat belt, a crash-safety device designed to protect car occupants from hitting with great force any of a car’s interior parts, like the dashboard, the door window or the windshield, as their car collides with another vehicle or a fixture on the road. A seat belt would also help keep a car occupant from smashing the windshield and getting thrown outside the car. State legislations on the use of seat belt was actually preceded by Title 49 of the United States Code, Chapter 301- Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, a federal law that took effect on January 1, 1968, and which required that all types of vehicles, with the exception of buses, be fitted with a seat belt in all seating positions designated by the law.

The most common stipulation of seat belt laws in all states is the use of a seat belt by the driver. With regard to passengers, the law considers the age and the specific seat where he or she is seated; thus, a person (depending on his or her age) at the backseat may not be required to buckle up. Only children seven years old and below should be restrained by a seat belt at all times.

In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recorded 33,000 deaths and 2.2 million injuries due to road crashes; more than half the number of those killed were not restrained at the time of the crash. But while seat belts have saved thousands of lives, these devices have also been identified as the cause of injury or death rather than protection – due to poor design. Fatal car crash records, in fact, show that, of the more than 30,000 deaths every year, at least 10,000 are said to have died due to a faulty seat belt.

Defects in seat belts include a seat belt buckle loosening by itself, the belt tearing easily, the release buttons not working properly, and a vehicle being equipped only with a lap belt (which does not include an upper torso restraint).  These defects can cause serious harm, like spine fracture, head and facial injuries, abdominal injuries, lacerations, internal organ damage, dislocations, concussions, and whiplash; the severity of some injuries eventually result to death.

The dangers presented by defective seat belts are too serious to ignore. This is why even giant automobile manufacturers are either ordered (by the NHTSA) to recall or are forced to make voluntary recalls of certain vehicle models due to technical problems and design flaws in seat belts. Chrysler, for example, had more than 14 million of its vehicles recalled due to malfunctioning of defectively designed seat belts.

In its website, The Benton Law Firm strongly emphasizes the huge responsibility of automobile manufacturers and parts makers in accidents caused or exacerbated by their defective auto parts, accidents that can all too easily result in severe and long-term injuries such as those mentioned above. Following this thought, the firm Spiros Law, P.C. says that those who get involved in an accident and get injured or killed due to mechanical defect or malfunction in a seat belt may be eligible for financial compensation to help offset the costs associated with treatment and recovery.