More evidence seatbelts save lives

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Even when they make it to the
emergency room alive, car crash victims who weren’t wearing
seatbelts are far more likely than belt users to die, study
findings show.

Researchers found that among nearly 24,000 car accident
patients who were brought to the ER, those who weren’t wearing
a seatbelt during the crash were three times more likely to die
in the hospital.

In fact, unbelted crash victims accounted for more than
two-thirds of patients who died in the ER, according to Shane
Allen and colleagues at the Medical College of Wisconsin in

In addition, the researchers found, unbelted drivers and
passengers were nearly three times more likely than belt users
to require admission to the hospital for further treatment.
Only 20 percent of unbelted patients could be successfully
treated in the ER alone.

The findings, published in the journal Academic Emergency
Medicine, come from data on 23,920 Wisconsin residents who were
treated in the ER for car accident injuries in 2002.

Almost 5,300 of these crash victims were not wearing a
seatbelt at the time of the wreck. They were more likely than
belt users to be male, or to have been drinking before the

Besides their higher fatality rate, unbelted car occupants
were at greater risk of suffering severe injuries to the head,
spine, abdomen and other body regions.

The findings, say the researchers, argue for tougher
seatbelt laws.

As of 2005, they note, only 21 U.S. states had what are
known as primary-enforcement seatbelt laws – meaning police can
pull drivers over for seatbelt violations alone. In other
states, drivers can only be cited when they are stopped for a
separate violation.

According to Allen’s team, research shows that when
jurisdictions move to primary enforcement, seatbelt use climbs
as much as 15 percent, and car crash injuries and deaths

SOURCE: Academic Emergency Medicine, online March 10, 2006.

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