Jon Corzine is the former Governor of New Jersey who famously uttered the words “I should be dead” after a terrible crash that left him pretty broken. And we don’t mean mentally broken. We mean physically destroyed with a broken leg, sternum, eleven ribs, collarbone and lower vertebra. He even had to wear a breathing tube for a while. And he was in a big, safe SUV with safety systems and airbags.
So, how did he get injured so badly? Well, airbags are of little help when you are being thrown around as if you were in a pinball. Yes, Mr. Corzine wasn’t wearing his seat belt.
He was lucky enough not to die that day, but it was luck more than anything else. Seatbelts literally save lives and they do this in more ways than one.
Not being in a pinball
After the introduction, this one is obvious. Seatbelts keep people in their seats and during a crash, this is most often the best place you can be in. Aside from the fact that most safety systems are designed to work their magic related to the sitting positions inside the car (we’ll get to that in a minute), flying around the car and hitting windshield, doors, windows, roof, front seats, or dashboard is anything but pleasant.
Have a look at this video and try and see what the unbuckled lady hit. That’s right, she hit everything. And this was a mild crash. Just see how different the two buckled people act.
Flying out of a car
Many people get flung out of their cars when the crash involves overturning of their car or unplanned descends down unpaved hills. Many of the flung ones die at landing and some of them are even squashed by their own overturning car. Cliff Burton, the first bassist of Metallica, died when their tour bus fell on him during a crash.
Moreover, many people fly out of their cars through their windshield. When your car stops due to a crash, you keep moving and meeting the asphalt face on is not the nicest thing.
Having airbags does not make seatbelts obsolete. First of all, airbags are designed to protect the person in the seat. If you are not there, the airbags are worthless. Secondly, if you don’t have a seatbelt to hold you back, you will be too close to the airbag and this is where you will see just how severe an airbag hit can be. There have even been examples of people dying after being hit by an airbag. In order for the airbag to protect you, rather than injure you, you need to be in the right position. Seatbelt keeps you there.
As already said, when the car stops during a crash, your body keeps moving. This means you will hit other places inside the car. Some of the most common injuries include shattered knees (hence the knee airbags which are, again, useless if your knee is not where it should be) and wrists (people tend to grab the steering wheel and we are not strong enough to counter the force of our bodies flying at 60km/h with our arms’ strength). Your wrists can also get injured for the same reason. Also, many people crash their chest against the steering wheel and cause serious internal injuries, or even instant death. Seatbelts prevent or relieve all of these issues.
Speaking of internal injuries, many of those come with the so-called internal collisions. These occur when your body finally stops, but your internal organs keep moving and they collide with the bones inside your body and other organs. This can cause serious damage and the more immediate the stop, the more powerful these internal collisions are.
Seatbelts deal with these in a few ways. First of all, they transfer much of the force on your hips, shoulders and chest bones which can withstand a lot of the force of the crash. Secondly, they stretch a bit and cushion much of the force. Nothing can override physics, but it is a thin line that stands between the shock and pain of a car crash and internal bleeding from an internal collision. Seatbelts keep you closer to the shock side and that is the more desirable one.
All of the previous examples should be enough to show you the importance of seatbelts. However, they all come in the case of an unexpected incident. There is one reason why you should wear your seatbelt even when you aren’t moving and everything is bound to be fine. It’s those seatbelt warning alarms that just won’t quit in these modern cars. If nothing else, wear your seatbelt to protect your sanity from those protruding beeps.