Seat Belts: A Simple Solution That is Still Underused

By ThinkReliability Staff

One of the most frequent questions we get is “What’s the root cause?”  The problem with that question is that there is never just one, root cause.  Rather, the ‘root cause” should be thought of as a system of causes, much like the roots of most plants are a system.  But the idea of a root cause is attractive – only one thing to find, analyze and solve.  There are a few, rare situations that are almost one, root cause.  One of them is the use of seat belts.

Not wearing a seat belt can cause all kinds of problems, in any kind of vehicle.  In passenger vehicles, seat belts saved more than 75,000 lives from 2004 to 2008, according to the National highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  Over that same period, more than 26,000 more lives WOULD have been saved if everyone wore a seat belt.  Unfortunately, not everyone does.  According to the National Safety Council (NSC), seat belt use varies by the type of vehicle but is around 80%.

It’s not just cars that are at issue.  On March 29, 2013, a man was thrown from an experimental plane and killed when the canopy came off.  He wasn’t wearing a seat belt, which would have almost certainly kept him from being ejected – and killed.  Although the FAA requires that safety belts be fastened while crewmembers are at their duty  stations, the pilot, who was killed, had unfastened his safety belt to troubleshoot problems with the battery and apparently did not successfully re-fasten the belt.   (The instructor was not ejected and was able to safely land the plane.)

Although states are trying with mandatory seat belt laws, you can’t force everyone to wear a seat belt all the time.  However, there are many actions being taken to try and increase seat belt use.  As previously mentioned, states are increasing laws and enforcement of requiring seat belt use for all passengers.  Car manufacturers have added warning systems that encourage seat belt use for drivers, and front seat passengers.

Seat belt use (percentage-wise) is lowest among those who have just gotten their license.  As a parent, requiring use of a seat belt every time, every trip, for every passenger can help reduce the risk to your child and his or her passengers.  As an employer, vehicle crashes can have a serious impact to your organization. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death and injury and cost employers $60 billion annually.  All employers should have a driver safety program.   (Tips on establishing a driver safety program can be found here.)

There is no question that deaths from traffic accidents are a major concern – to everyone.  According to the NHTSA, “seat belts are the most effective traffic safety device for preventing death and injury.”  Because of the effectiveness of seat belts, the  risk of deaths from vehicle accidents, it’s no stretch to say that buckling your seat belt – and getting everyone in your vehicle, family, and organization to do the same – may well be the most important thing you do today.

To view the Outline and Cause Map for the plane ejection, please click “Download PDF” above.  If you’re curious why school buses do not have seat belts, read our previous blog.  Or click here to  read more:

This incident