Features

Seat-belt: The Facts

With Frederick Mubanga

ROAD traffic injuries are a major public health problem and one of the leading cause of death and injury around the world. Each year nearly 1, 800 people die in Zambia and several more are injured or disabled as a result of road crashes. 

Predominantly, over 85 percent of road traffic crashes and injuries are caused by human error mostly due to the following identified risk factors; over speeding, use of cell phone while driving, driving and the influence of alcohol and not using the seat-belts among other factors. 

This week, we highlight the effectiveness of the use of seat-belts and child restraints at saving the lives of vehicle occupants in the event of a crash.

Seat-belts and child restraints are extremely effective at saving the lives of vehicle occupants in the event of a crash. Failure to use a seat-belt is a major risk factor for road traffic injuries and deaths among vehicle occupants. An occupant’s chance of survival increases dramatically when appropriately restrained. 

Seat-belts reduce injury by preventing the occupant from hitting the interior parts of the vehicle or being ejected from the car.

A review of research on the effectiveness of seat-belts found that their use reduces the probability of being killed by 40–50 percent for drivers and front seat passengers and by about 25 percent for passengers in rear seats. The impact on serious injuries is almost as great, while the effect on slight injuries is smaller at 20–30 percent. 

A more detailed analyses indicate that seat-belts are most effective in frontal impacts and in run-off-the-road crashes, where the probability of being ejected is high if seat-belts are not worn. 

Seat-belts reduce morbidity and mortality in a road crash.   They act to scatter the kinetic energy of the body which is released on rapid deceleration. This energy is disintegrated through the body. 

The seat-belts acts as a fulcrum which are considered as a defence line in preventing road traffic collision injury and death. It reduces injury by preventing the driver or occupant from hitting the interior parts of the vehicle or being ejected from the car

However, seat-belts are not designed for children and do not offer the protection they give adults, but restraining them with adult seat-belts is preferable to letting them travel unrestrained. However, the best solution is to use age-appropriate child restraints. 

Children in an appropriate restraint are significantly less likely to be killed or injured than unrestrained children, and are also less likely to be killed or injured than children using adult seat-belts. 

The effectiveness of child restraints in reducing injury or death varies by type of restraint. Rear-facing restraints for babies and infants (under one year) have been shown to reduce the risk of death or injury by 90 percent compared to being unrestrained. 

Forward-facing child restraints reduce the risk of serious injury by almost 80 percent compared to children restrained only by seat-belts. Children in booster seats, generally aged 4-10 years, have a 77 percent reduced risk of being injured in a crash compared to unrestrained children. 

According to a baseline study on use of seat-belts in the country conducted by the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) in 2020, the data collected indicates that 29,7 75 vehicles were observed in Lusaka, Kitwe, Ndola, Kabwe, Choma and Livingstone. 

The study revealed that the overall seatbelt adherence rates stand at 32 percent with usage rates among drivers at 50 percent, 40 percent among front passengers and five percent among rear passengers.

Seat-belt usage rates are highest among private motor vehicle drivers and lowest among bus drivers, truck drivers. Of the 489 vehicles observed to be carrying children, 23 (five percent) were in car seats while 466 (95 percent) of the children were not secured in a child restraint system. 

Interventions

 Legislation and enforcement of seat-belt usage by law is mandatory in Zambia so as to reduce the toll of death of road traffic collisions. 

The Road Traffic Act No 11 of 2002 stipulates the mandatory use of seat-belts by all motorists travelling in a vehicle. The law also provides that all vehicles must be fitted with seatbelts and a person shall not import a motor vehicle that has not been fitted with a seat belt. 

The Act also guides that any person carrying a child in a vehicle who is less than three years old shall ensure that the child sits on a child car seat.

Going forward, the RTSA and the Zambia Police will carry out more targeted enforcement, education and awareness interventions to ensure that road users comply with the various road safety rules and regulations including the use of seat-belts.

Despite a large proportion of drivers and passengers understanding the benefits of using restrains such as seat-belts and child car seats, the problem seems to escalate, the clarion call thus is to use a seat-belt at all times when on a vehicle. 

One of the safest choices drivers and passengers can make is to buckle up. Don’t become another statistic. Start today and buckle up!

The author is Head ñ Public Relations

Road Transport and Safety Agency

fmubanga@rtsa.org.zm

Website: www.rtsa.org.zm

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