NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Seat belts often save lives, but in some cases they can also do harm.
Part of the problem is that they’re made as if one size fits all.
As CBS2’s Kris Van Cleave reported, some are working to build a better seat belt.
“I remember sitting there and my body was flipping back and forth,” Pam Sohn said.
Sohn ended up in a neck brace after a Jeep backed into her car. Her seat belt kept her in the seat, but researchers believe it may have contributed to her concussion and back injuries.
“I probably would’ve went through the window or something, the way I was moving around, had I not had on yet, but it didn’t do what I thought it would,” she said.
The seat belt Pam and the rest of us use wasn’t designed for the 60-year-old’s 5’4″ frame.
Professor John Bolte would like to see that change.
“If a car can drive today without a person controlling it, why can’t we have a safety system that can better respond to saving someone?” he asked.
Bolte is using crash tests to study the amount of force needed to protect those with more fragile frames like smaller and older drivers.
The goal is to have seat belts that one day automatically adjust to the person they’re protecting.
“It’s going to take a lot more force to stop me from going into the steering wheel than it would a grandfather or grandmother. So that force against my thorax is not going to cause a rib fracture in me, potentially, but it is perhaps too much force for someone that is a little older,” he said.
Crash tests show how seat belts save lives. The driver without a belt is launched forward, but when it comes to older drivers in particular, seat belts are also blamed for a higher rate of potentially serious — even deadly — chest injuries as older drivers tend to be more easily injured in a crash.
Seat belts are credited with saving nearly 14,000 lives last year. Researchers say everyone should wear their seat belt regardless of age or size.
Users should also make sure the seat belt rests on your shoulder — this area is stronger than the ribs and leaves 10 to 12 inches between the user and the air bag.
Even though seat belts can cause injury in some circumstances they should still be worn, and all laws that pertain to them should be followed.