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Seat Belts May Fail to Protect Seniors in San Diego Crash

A new study found that seat belts may fail to properly protect seniors in a San Diego crash. The results are concerning, particularly given that the population of older Americans is expected to skyrocket in the next few years.

More than 36 million drivers in the U.S. are currently aged 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). By 2030, the number is expected to exceed 60 million.

As California injury lawyers, we have seen firsthand that buckling up is the most effective way to avoid serious injury in a motor vehicle crash. In fact, seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about half, according to the CDC. In total, seat belts saved 12,802 lives in 2014.

The issue for seniors is that seat belts have to fit properly in order to do their job. “When seat belts were first designed four decades ago, safety dummies tested in car crash simulations resembled the average-size male driver of 40 years old and weighing approximately 170 pounds,” said John Bolte, an associate professor of health and rehabilitation sciences and director of Ohio State University’s Injury Biomechanics Research Center, explained to Reuters Health.

As a result, the standard seat belt design can be less effective for older drivers. In fact, it may even lead to fatal harm due to injuries sustained along the path of the belt.

Bolte added: “If someone doesn’t adjust the height of their shoulder belt, and if that belt is up around the neck, you will have severe neck injuries. If it’s under your arm, it will lead to rib fractures.”

To help protect senior drivers, Bolte and his colleagues are working with automakers to measure properties of the thorax and upper body in older drivers to better predict how they are impacted in a crash. The next step is to redesign seat belts to help avoid injuries. Of course, in the meantime, it is still important for senior drivers and occupants to always buckle up.

If you or someone you love has suffered serious injury in a San Diego crash, you may be entitled to compensation. To discuss your legal rights, contact a California injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.