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Your seat belt - The simplest and yet most effective car accident life saver

The standard three-point seat belt installed almost universally in modern cars was invented by a Swedish car crash test engineer named Nils Bohlin while he was working for Volvo in the 1950s.

Volvo, a brand which has since become synonymous with car accident safety, was the first to install Bohlin's seat belts as standard in 1959. Read an overview of car accidents.

As a safety device, the three-point seat belt is astonishingly effective, especially considering its simplicity. Studies show that wearing one reduces the risk of death by car crash injury for a driver or front-seat passenger by about 50 percent; no other safety feature is as important or effective.

In Britain, seat belts save seven lives a day and wearing one has been a legal requirement in front seats since 1982 (1991 in the back). But shockingly, a recent What Car? study found that one in five of us is risking serious personal injury by not belting up routinely.

Steve Fowler, What Car? editor, described Britons' wilful lack of regard for safety as "complete madness".

"Car makers spend millions of pounds developing state of the art safety systems, yet one person in five is still not using the simplest and most important one of all - their seat belt," he said.

One of those seen risking serious car accident injuries is TV chef Gordon Ramsey, who was filmed driving without a seat belt for an episode of 'The F Word'.

Kevin Clinton, from the Royal Society for the prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said "Seat belts save lives, and to drive without one is daft. Ramsey is a role model and it sets a bad example."

Seat belts in vans

The rate of unbuckled seat belts among those who travel by car suddenly looks much more positive when compared with the numbers risking serious personal injury in British vans.

Van drivers have never been subject to the cover-all enforcement of seat belt use that car drivers have, and what safety laws do apply to them are often abused without legal consequence (the medical consequences of even minor road traffic accidents can be radically worse, of course).

Until March 2005, van drivers were only required to belt-up on 'long-distance' deliveries and the vagueness of the term meant this posed little practical threat to the unbelted, regardless of their journey length.

The 2005 legislation exerted some more control as it limited van drivers to trips of less than 50 metres unbelted. However, even this restricted allowance gives them the loophole and, in the eyes of many, the right to carry on risking serious road traffic injury by driving without wearing a seat belt. Read more about child restraints and the law.

At last count in April 2006, the rate of seat belt use in UK vans was 71 percent for drivers and 58 percent for passengers. These are shocking figures when compared with 93 percent for car drivers and 95 percent for their passengers (and these, as we have seen, are considered worryingly low).

Government research suggests that if the rate of seatbelt use in vans could be brought up in line with that in cars, 20 lives would be spared each year, along with 240 serious injuries and 1,000 slight injuries.

Belt-up to stay alive in a car accident

Wearing a seat belt is extraordinarily important; it could save you from sustaining a fatal injury in a car accident or other vehicle accident.

Belts are installed with good reason and regardless of your journey distance, mode of transport and whether you are a driver or a passenger, you should always, always buckle up.

For more information about seat belts and the law please visit http://www.rospa.co.uk.

Claiming compensation following a car accident

If you have suffered personal injury in a non-fault car accident then you may be entitled to make a compensation claim.

The injury compensation experts at The Claims Solicitors have an excellent claim success rate and can help you to recover costs for medical treatment, lost earnings and more following a car accident.

All our personal injury solicitors work on a no win no fee basis which means that in the event our client's claim is unsuccessful, they won't have to pay a penny.

Give us a call on 0800 197 32 32 and we'll assess your eligibility for car accident compensation.