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Seatbelt Safety and Awareness in Montana

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (MDPHHS) aims to reduce the number of traffic-related fatalities in the state. Motor vehicle accidents remain the leading cause of death and unintentional injuries in Montana, and about three of every four vehicle occupants killed in crashes in Montana each year are unrestrained at the time of the crash. Individuals who fail to wear seatbelts face a substantially higher risk of suffering injuries, and the injuries they do suffer are more likely to be severe or result in permanent disability.

Key Findings From the MDPHHS Seatbelt Awareness Project

MDPHHS hopes by educating the public about the dangers of driving without using seatbelts, drivers can appreciate the value of seatbelts and help prevent further injuries and fatalities from accidents by exercising appropriate seatbelt use on every trip.

Best Practices for Seatbelts

Most drivers understand the need for seatbelts but either do not believe they need to wear them or they wear them inappropriately. For example, the lap belt should rest across the top of the legs, not across the stomach. The seatbelt’s function is to distribute the force of a crash as evenly as possible across a vehicle occupant’s body to prevent acute injuries and to keep the occupant restrained during a crash to prevent injuries from ejection from the vehicle or violent tossing about the interior of the vehicle. Wearing a seatbelt across the stomach may cause the force of a crash to damage the sensitive abdominal area, potentially damaging internal organs and causing severe damage.

Montana drivers can reduce the number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries by wearing seatbelts at all times for every ride. This applies to drivers of all experience levels; even the most experienced drivers cannot account for every possibility on the road or predict what other drivers may or may not do. Seatbelts are a crucial mitigating element in any type of vehicle accident for drivers of all experience levels.

Parents of teen drivers should be sure to talk with their kids about seatbelt use. Teens are more prone to risky behavior, but explaining the potential consequences of driving without a seatbelt can encourage teen drivers to adopt good habits early and start strong with safe driving records. Parents should also know how to properly install and use car seats for infants and toddlers, and the Montana Department of Transportation offers guidance on this area of vehicle safety as well.