As early as the 1950’s medical studies began to recognize an increase in abdominal injuries for occupants wearing only lap belt restraints. These injuries included fractured spines, perforation to the intestines, facial fractures; serious closed head injuries, and even death. Automotive engineers soon realized that in such frontal impacts, the occupants in only lap belts, their heads and upper torso accelerate during impact and can exceed the actual impact velocity of the vehicle in which they are occupants.
Our auto defect lawyers are here to help anyone who has suffered an injury caused by a seat belt in a car accident. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
Has the Auto Industry Regulated Seat Belts to Reduce Injury?
With this knowledge, one could only believe that automakers would quickly remedy this deadly situation, but instead, they fought to be required to include shoulder belts as standard equipment. In fact even after shoulder belts were required for front seated outboard occupants, the manufacturers continued their fight against shoulder belts for the rear occupants through the 1987 model year.
How do Shoulder Belts Help Prevent Injury?
According to government studies, the failure to have shoulder belts in rear seats may have caused as many as 6,000 deaths and serious injuries per year. In the early 1970’s NHSTA proposed shoulder belts in all outboard seating positions, but Lee Iacocca as president of Ford and other industry executives successfully lobbies President Richard Nixon to block the implementation of such regulations.
During these debates, Iacocca stated that the shoulder belts and headrests were “a complete waste of money” even though he said, “no doubt that it saves lives.” Years later, Lee Iacocca in his autobiography, stated: “the plain truth is that if you are wearing a combined shoulder and lap belt system, its almost impossible to be killed in an impact under 30 mph.” Cars sold in Europe by U.S. and foreign manufacturers were equipped with rear seat lap and shoulder belts long before they were used in cars sold in the United States.
Are Shoulder Belts Required by Car Manufacturers?
As a result of the strong ineffective lobbying, there was no shoulder belt requirement but in 1972, auto manufacturers were required to put anchorage points (or brackets) for rear shoulder harnesses. All that was missing was the belt assembly itself, estimated to cost about $12 per car. However, instead of installing this inexpensive safety item, many manufacturers began to sell retrofit kits. These kits cost many times more than what it would have cost a manufacturer to install a three-point belt at a factory. Unfortunately, surveys have shown that auto dealers typically do not stock these retrofit shoulder belts.
Researchers clearly understood the contradictions and the hypocrisy of not providing a three-point belt system (lap and shoulder belts) to every occupant regardless of their seating position. Often times in frontal impacts, the front seated occupants walk away from the collision, due to the (3 point belts), but the rear occupants are seriously injured or killed when their heads and upper torso are violently accelerated into the back of the front seat or door/roof pillars. Only if the automobile manufactured had not resisted the implementation of such a simple and proven safety system, thousands of persons would have been spared the horrors of closed head injuries and paralysis.
Finally, the American Manufacturers were forced by NHTSA to install shoulder harnesses in the rear seats and the numbers of these types of injuries almost disappeared overnight in the newer model vehicles. While all new vehicle manufacturers and sold in the United State are now equipped with lap-shoulder belts, still the center seating position is without such protection and unfortunately, hundreds if not thousands will also be injured before the laws are changed again.
Middle Position Lap Only Belts Injure & Kill
Sadly, even today new cars are still being produced without a three (3) point seat belt system for all occupants. In light of all of the safety studies showing that shoulder belts in addition to lap belts prevent injuries and deaths, many center position seats only have a simple 2 point lap belt.
Some automakers have begun to use a 3 point lap-shoulder belt in the middle position to prevent these serious injuries from occurring. If a family member has been seriously injured or worst killed in an accident while seated in the middle or center seating position with only a lap belt, with no shoulder belt, then call our firm immediately for legal help. The vehicle and the seat belt must be found and preserved as evidence.
Call Our Seat Belt Injury Lawyers Today
If you or a loved one have been injured while wearing only a lap belt, then call and talk to an experienced product liability trial attorney now. Due to the nature of these cases, the dangerous or defective products must be found and preserved as evidence, the scene of the accident must be documented and a full investigation must be started. Call us if you have been injured and get the representation you deserve.