Personal Injury

Dispelling the myth of safety belt use for commercial drivers

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), commercial truck and bus drivers are using their safety belts more now than ever before. That’s good news for sure, but 26 percent of commercial drivers still snub the belt, meaning the FMCSA’s mission to get all drivers to buckle up is still 26 percent incomplete.

According to FMCSA data, safety belt use isn’t guaranteed to save lives in the event of an accident, but it dramatically improves the odds of surviving an accident and mitigating injury. 703 drivers of large trucks died in truck crashes in 2006. 314 of those drivers were not wearing safety belts. Of the 188 drivers killed who were ejected from their vehicles, almost 80 percent were not wearing safety belts.

Rollover accidents are the deadliest form of accident involving large trucks. More than half of all truck occupant fatalities occur because of a rollover. Truck rollovers increase the likelihood of death by 30 times. Cab occupants who are wearing seat belts, however, are 80 percent less likely to die in a rollover than unbelted drivers.

To encourage more safety belt use among commercial truck and bus drivers, the FMCSA hopes to dispel some commonly held myths about seat belt use, which are often rooted in misinformation and erroneous beliefs. According to the FMCSA, these myths are:

Myth 1:
Safety belts are uncomfortable and restrict movement.

Fact:
Most drivers find that once they correctly adjust the seat, lap and shoulder belt, most drivers find that discomfort and restrictive movement can be alleviated.

Myth 2:
Wearing a safety belt is a personal decision that doesn’t affect anyone else.

Fact:
Not wearing a safety belt can certainly affect your family and loved ones. It can also affect other motorists since wearing a safety belt can help you avoid losing control of your truck in a crash. It’s the law; Federal regulations require commercial vehicle drivers to buckle up.

Myth 3:
Safety belts prevent your escape from a burning or submerged vehicle.

Fact:
Safety belts can keep you from being knocked unconscious, improving your chances of escape. Fire or submersion occurs in less than 5% of fatal large truck crashes.

Myth 4:
It’s better to be thrown clear of the wreckage in the event of a crash.

Fact:
An occupant of a vehicle is four times as likely to be fatally injured when thrown from the vehicle. In 2006, 217 truck occupants and drivers died when they were ejected from their cabs during a crash.

Myth 5:
It takes too much time to fasten your safety belt 20 times a day.

Fact:
Buckling up takes about three seconds. Even buckling up 20 times a day requires only one minute.

Myth 6:
Good truck drivers don’t need to wear safety belts.

Fact:
Good drivers usually don’t cause collisions, but it’s possible that during your career you will be involved in a crash caused by a bad driver, bad weather, mechanical failure, or tire blowout. Wearing a safety belt prevents injuries and fatalities by preventing ejection, and by protecting your head and spinal cord.

Myth 7:
A large truck will protect you. Safety belts are unnecessary.

Fact:
In 2006, 805 drivers and occupants of large trucks died in truck crashes and 393 of them were not wearing safety belts. Of the 217 drivers and occupants who were killed and ejected from their vehicles, almost 81 percent were not wearing safety belts.

Myth 8:
Safety belts aren’t necessary for low-speed driving.

Fact:
In a frontal collision occurring at 30 mph, an unbelted person continues to move forward at 30 mph causing him/her to hit the windshield at about 30 mph. This is the same velocity a person falling from the top of a three story building would experience upon impact with the ground.

Myth 9:
A lap belt offers sufficient protection.

Fact:
The lap and shoulder belt design has been proven to hold a driver securely behind the wheel in the event of a crash, greatly increasing the driver’s ability to maintain control of the vehicle and minimizing the chance for serious injury or death.