Seat Belt Law Controversy

Illinois Seat Belt Law Controversy

Leading Lake County Personal Injury Attorney, Robert Edens, Discusses Seat Belt Law Controversy


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It is indisputable that seat belt laws have significantly reduced the number of fatalities resulting from car accidents. In fact, in addition to decreased fatalities, serious facial and chest trauma have been greatly reduced too. Unfortunately, other serious injuries have increased dramatically as a result of seat belt laws. Debilitating injuries include; disabling cervical thoracic and lumbar spine injuries, as well as numerous types of abdominal and internal injuries.

Children are particularly prone to seat belt injuries because neither the car seats nor the seat belts were designed to fit them optimally. Numerous pediatric injuries have been reported and often the most serious are spinal injuries. On a positive note, a recent study provides reassurance to pregnant women that the use of seat belts does not place them or their fetuses at significantly greater risk in the event of an accident.

It is difficult to estimate the precise contribution of seat belts and shoulder harnesses to neck and head injury due to the tendency to over/under-reporting of seat belt use. Most non-accident use studies show current use to be about 65% in the U.S. Yet over 96% of the people surveyed claim to use seat belts. Either way, level one neck injuries were three times more likely to occur in belted drivers than in non-belted drivers. Injuries are measured on an abbreviated injury scale also known as AIS – see below:

  1. Minor
  2. Moderate
  3. Serious
  4. Severe
  5. Critical
  6. Maximum/nearly unsurvivable
  7. Unknown/death

One study found that of the patients who had been wearing restraints, 34% continued to be symptomatic after one year, whereas for the patients who were not wearing restraints, only 20% were symptomatic at one year.

The primary reason that neck injuries are accentuated by the restraint system is that the shoulder harness abruptly restrains the decelerating body of the occupant while the head’s inertia continues unrestrained. This results in a tremendous bending movement at the cervical thoracic junction and is an injury. Another reason, as we will discuss shortly, is because the head restraint usually limits the extension of the neck.

Slack between the torso and the shoulder harness will accentuate the deceleration impact phenomenon. In a high-speed impact, where the occupant creates a backlash against his own seat-back enough to deflect it several degrees, compounds the problem since the standard seat belt re-tractors cannot spool the slack fast enough in a rear impact accident to counteract this problem.

Perhaps one of the most important considerations in the debate over seat belt laws is the issue of quality of life vs. quantity of life. Unfortunately, only one-half of the study group can provide us with insight into this question.

If you have suffered a personal injury from a vehicle, or another type of accident, involving whiplash, a bulging or slipped disc, torn ligaments, or other injuries relating to the spine or neck area through no fault of your own, it is in your best interest to consult an attorney before accepting a settlement from the insurance company.

Robert Edens offers an honest, no obligation, free consultation. He will evaluate the facts of your case, review any settlement that an insurance company has offered you or tell you how you can handle the case yourself if his services are unnecessary. Call 847-395-2200 or click here to schedule your appointment for a free consultation.

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