Chapter 6

Sometimes driving can be a mindless act. You get caught up in scenery or your own thoughts, and you start to daydream. The conscious mind wanders, and your car begins to swerve. At no point are your vehicle's built-in safety features more vital! Seatbelts, headrests, or airbags are in your vehicle for a reason. Make sure they are enabled, properly adjusted, and ready to work.....they may even save your life!

- Always wear your seat belt.
- Make sure all your passengers and friends have the proper safety restraints buckled

A. Seatbelts - The effectiveness and need for seatbelts is unquestionable. To increase the chance of survival in an accident, it is important that all occupants remain inside the vehicle. There is a 45% greater chance of surviving an accident if buckled in a seatbelt. Neck injuries and paralysis are often the result of unbuckled drivers and passengers being thrown "clear" of the accident. The seatbelt prevents the driver from being thrown through the windshield and into traffic. Cars are designed to collapse in an accident and disperse the force of the impact, with the inner compartment (the crumple zone) made to withstand the collapsing vehicle, securing and protecting the driver and passengers. It is important for you to periodically check to ensure all seatbelts are functioning properly. A quick seatbelt check by a mechanic or car dealer will determine whether the belt is at risk of malfunctioning. A minor or slight adjustment to a jammed belt or to the pendulum or ratchet mechanism might be the difference between life and death.

Seatbelt Laws and Safety Tips

1. Georgia law requires that the driver and front seat passenger be buckled up at all times.

2. Any person under 18 years old must wear a seatbelt, regardless of seating position.

3. Operation Strap N Snap allows Georgia law enforcement officers to enforce occupant protection laws by stopping and citing seat belt violators without the presence of any other violation.

4.  Any child under six years of age riding in a passenger automobile, van, or pickup truck registered in this state, other than one operated for hire, must be secured in a U.S. Department of Transportation-approved child passenger restraining system.

5. The back seat of the vehicle is the safest place for children 12 years and under to be seated.

6. Children should not be placed in the front passenger seat if the car has a passenger side airbag (there is risk of suffocation when the airbag is inflated).

7. Children up to 20 pounds and approximately one year old should be placed in a safety seat in the back seat of the vehicle facing the rear of the vehicle.

U.S. Department of Transportation
DOT 57-09
Friday, April 24, 2009

U.S. DOT Announces New Consumer Program for Child Safety Seats

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced today that it will create a new consumer program to help parents and caregivers find a child seat that fits in their vehicle. The new program is the result of a comprehensive review ordered by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to improve child passenger safety and Federal child seat standards.

Secretary LaHood also ordered the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop a new side impact safety standard for car seats. Side impact crashes account for one-third of all highway deaths among children under thirteen years old.

The internal review found that current standards, which require child seats to withstand forces that are more severe than 99.5 percent of real-world crashes, are effective. However, Secretary LaHood urged NHTSA to do better.

"Infants and children are our most precious cargo," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We need to constantly improve our track record and help parents to choose a child seat that fits in their vehicle."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration task force, which reviewed child safety regulations, was comprised of a team of 30 experts. The team found that while current standards offer a high degree of protection, the agency should consider adding a first ever side-impact standard for child safety seats. It also recommended research on future improvements to the current frontal impact standard.

NHTSA will institute a new program beginning with the 2011 model year to make it easier for parents to choose child safety seats. Car manufacturers will recommend specific seats in various price ranges that fit for individual vehicles. Car manufacturers including Nissan and others in Europe already provide similar recommendations.

The review also found that half of all children between the ages of zero to seven years of age, who were killed in motor vehicle crashes, were not in child safety seats.

"A child safety seat cannot do its job if it's not used at all," said Secretary LaHood. "Parents and caregivers need to make sure their children are buckled up properly and child seats are installed correctly."

Recommended Child Restraints:

Always follow the instructions that come with your child's safety seat. The following are just guidelines but should give you a general idea as to which product is best for your child.

Seatbelt Design - New adjustable upper belts allow you to change the height of the shoulder strap to accommodate a person's size. This added feature may encourage passengers to wear their belts, as it increases shoulder belt comfort. A seatbelt "pretensioner" has been added which retracts the seatbelt to remove excess slack in a crash (almost instantly). The seatbelt still needs to be adjusted as snugly as possible, as pretensioners are not strong enough to pull you back in your seat. Pretensioners are good for only one incident and then must be replaced, similar to an airbag.

Seatbelt Myths

Many myths exist about wearing seatbelts, but most of these are simply not true. Some myths and the truths follow:

- Safety belts trap you in the car during an accident.

The safety belt keeps you secured and eliminates the chance of getting knocked unconscious. When conscious, there are better chances to escape, as it takes only a second or less to take off the safety belt.

- Safety belts are for long drives but not needed for quick, local trips.

50% of all traffic deaths happen within 25 miles of the home. Death can occur when drivers are traveling at speeds of 40 mph or less.

- People thrown clear from an accident are able to walk away from danger.

The chance of surviving a car accident is 45% greater if you are buckled IN the car. If your vehicle is hit from the side, staying in the vehicle will prevent you from being thrown into the path of another car, through the windshield, or onto the pavement.

The truth from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)... 75% of passenger car occupants in the US who were ejected from the vehicle in an accident did not survive.

B. Airbags - Airbags are designed as supplementary restraint systems which only complement properly worn seatbelts. There is often a false impression that seatbelts are not required when airbags are utilized. In fact, both systems used together create the optimal safety mechanism for injury prevention.

Young children should never be placed in a seat with an airbag, except as noted below. They should be properly buckled in a child's seat in the back seat only!

Some facts about airbags include:

On-Off Switches - On-off switches are also available for airbags. An on-off switch can deactivate driver or passenger airbags. Vehicles without rear seats or with small rear seats, such as pickup trucks and sports cars, may have a passenger side on-off switch as standard equipment. You can get authorization from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to have an on-off switch installed by a dealer or repair shop if you:

U.S. Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs

NHTSA 2-04
Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Survey Finds Widespread Misuse Of Air Bag On-Off Switches in Pickups

Air bag switches are often misused, needlessly endangering children and depriving adults of life-saving protection, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) survey has found.

"Airbags can be real lifesavers if used properly but pose grave risk to small children," said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge, MD. "We must redouble our education efforts to help consumers understand what constitutes proper use."

More than 12 million pickup trucks and a smaller number of passenger cars and cargo vans without rear seats are equipped with air bag on-off switches. Proper use of the switches requires drivers to turn the air bag off for children 12 and under but activate it when the passenger seat is occupied by an adult.

The NHTSA survey found:

  • Drivers with children in rear-facing child safety seats achieved the highest rate of correct use of the air bag switch - 86 percent.
  • On average, 48 percent of air bag switches were incorrectly left on for child passengers, aged 12 and under.
  • Air bag switches were incorrectly turned off for 17 percent of teenage and adult passengers.

On-off switches were first permitted in limited circumstances in May 1995 as an interim device pending the development of advanced air bag systems. The use of on-off switches will be eliminated as advanced air bag systems are put into vehicles. This phase-out will be complete by Model Year 2013.

NHTSA researchers surveyed the air bag status in 3,182 pickup trucks between July 1 and Nov. 22, 2000 at sites in California, Georgia, Michigan and Texas. An Internet link to the full technical report is at Air Bag On-Off Switches Survey. (

Side Airbags - Side airbags provide additional chest protection by inflating instantly during many side collisions, and some even provide head protection. Side airbags are not required by law, but most manufacturers are still padding or improving door and body structures to meet federal side-impact requirements.

C. Head Restraints - Properly adjusted head restraints reduce the risk of severe injury when involved in rear end collisions. You should adjust the headrest prior to driving.

D. Examples of Effectiveness:

- One study sampled 10,000 accidents and found no fatalities when seatbelts were worn.

- A properly worn lap and shoulder belt increases the chance of survival in an accident. The two together are safer than wearing only the lap belt or shoulder harness separately. You must wear both lap and shoulder belts if the car has both, even if the car has air bags.

- Studies show that eight out of every ten children who die in car crashes would have survived if they were in a child safety seat. An unbuckled child in a vehicle during an accident may become a projectile.

- Nearly 2/3 of the passengers killed in traffic accidents in the U.S. each year were not wearing seatbelts.

SMART RULE #2...Neck injuries that lead to paralysis can be dramatically
reduced by wearing a seatbelt at all times.

Other Safety Features

The onset of the new millennium has seen automobile manufacturers adding new safety features to many vehicles. Along with technological advances in performance and comfort, there has been progress in safety technology. Driving a motor vehicle with some of these new safety features may prevent injury in the event of an accident, save you money, and may even save a life. Safety features may also increase the vehicle's resale value and reduce the cost of automobile insurance. Some of these features are listed below.

A. Traction Control - Traction control systems improve vehicle stability and steering control during acceleration by controlling the amount the wheels can slip when you apply excess power. The system automatically adjusts the engine power output and sometimes applies braking force to selected wheels during acceleration and cornering. Traction control is mainly found on vehicles with four-wheel, anti-lock brake systems.

B. Daytime Running Lights - These lights increase the ability of oncoming drivers to see your vehicle. Since they may not include taillights or other exterior lights, headlights must still be turned on at dusk.

Driver Responsibility

A. You should be properly licensed with the DMV and obey all regulations and restrictions that are applicable to your driver's license.

B. The automobile should be in proper working condition, with brakes, tires, lights, etc. all properly maintained.

C. You should be prepared for emergency situations and have a first aid kit and flares available.

D. You should be familiar with the applicable rules of the road as defined in the vehicle code and be aware of the ramifications of many of the violations.

You should always drive defensively, using common sense at all times while driving.

Traits of a Good Driver

Good drivers usually exhibit prudent and efficient behavior on the road. You can learn to be a good driver by adopting the following traits: