New ‘Ejection’ Safety Rule – Saving Lives or Idiot-Proofing?

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

Lately, it seems as if NHTSA is on a regulatory binge. In addition to proposing mandatory back-up cameras, NHTSA has recently announced a new rule that is intended to prevent “ejections” during a rollover. While this new rule could save nearly 400 lives each year, some critics argue that rollover ejections are limited to un-belted passengers, and that the new mandate amounts to “idiot-proofing.”

These critics  may be surprised to learn that, in many cases, someone using their seatbelt can be ejected during a rollover…but there’s more to the story than that.

Rollover Accidents Kill

Approximately 10,000 people in the USA die every year in rollover accidents (Reuters), accounting for about one-third of all vehicle fatalities. By any measure, this is a tragedy.

Of those 10,000 deaths, nearly half are “ejected” from their vehicle. The causes of these ejections include:

  • Tremendous impact that causes people to slide-out of their seat belt during a crash
  • Vehicle structural failure
  • Seat belt failure
  • Not utilizing a seat belt

This animated reconstruction of a rollover accident (skip ahead to 1:35) shows how a person with their belt on can be ejected.

YouTube Preview Image

According to a Canadian forensic engineering company that studies and reconstructs car accidents:

Research has been published that shows it is possible to become free of the belt restraint during a rollover because of the design of the retractor and the single loop belt…in a rollover, the forces on the occupants are in multiple directions…As the forces change direction and magnitude, the belt retractor may lock and unlock each time, allowing more of the belt webbing to be spooled out. Once the belt is sufficiently slack, it no longer acts as a restraint to keep the occupant in the vehicle.

Between the reconstruction animation and the Canadian forensic engineers, it seems certain that many people die in rollover accidents even if they’re wearing a seatbelt. But is this particular phenomenon the exception, or is it the rule?

Seat Belts, Unsurprisingly, Save Lives

According to George Washington University National Crash Analysis Center (NCAC, which is affiliated with NHTSA), about 80% of rollover fatalities or serious injuries occur when passengers are un-belted – which means wearing a seat belt is a great way to reduce a person’s injury or fatality risk in a rollover. According to the NCAC, an un-belted person is about 400% more likely to be injured or die in a rollover.

Which brings us back to this new safety rule, which according to NHTSA would save the lives of about 4% of all rollover victims at a cost of about $31 per vehicle*.  While a 4% reduction in fatalities is no small improvement, mandating seat-belt use would reduce fatalities by a much larger margin (about 20% by my calculations).

Oh wait, seat belt use is mandated. It’s just that a lot of people don’t bother to use them.

*The cost estimate is suspect – $31 would probably cover the cost of using safety glass in side windows, but rollover air bags are much more expensive and probably the option most manufacturers will add.

Which brings us to the following question:

Does it make sense to add weight and cost to every new vehicle in order to prevent rollover fatalities, 80% of whom aren’t using their seat belt?

What do you think?

Filed Under: Auto News


RSSComments (20)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. Mickey says:

    If they are going by this video I can see why they believe what they want. How come the person acts numb through the whole event. Doesn’t even try to grab onto anything. To me that would be a natural reaction to try and grab something where this video shows a numb body making no attempt at anything. I would think the person would attempt to grab the dashboard, door or handle on the roof, and maybe the seatbelt itself. I’m sorry I don’t buy this video.

    • Shannon says:

      I was ejected from my car two years ago while wearing my seatbelt. Trust me, you dont have much time to realize what’s happening, let alone try to grab onto something.

  2. TXTee says:

    Seatbelts are not mandatory for backseat passengers in the state of TX.

  3. mk says:

    good, I might move to TX and have a chaffeur? ha ha.

  4. Jason (Admin) says:

    Mickey – I think the video was more for illustrative purposes than anything else. I’m sure the guy did try to grab something, but the flips happened fast. The point is: you *could* be ejected while wearing your seatbelt…but all the stats show that is not the most common occurrence.

    TXTee – That’s crazy! How could any state in the union not mandate seatbelt use? Driving a car is the most dangerous thing US citizens do every day (by a large margin) and wearing a belt is just common sense. Frankly, it shouldn’t have to be a law in the first place.

    mk – LOL.

  5. Mickey says:

    Remember Jason who sits in the back seat. KIDS!

  6. mk says:

    TXTee, I don’t believe in mandatory seat belt use and should be an individual’s choice to wear or not just like a motorcycle helmet. No difference if you ask me. Personally, I don’t care to wear a seat belt, but usually wear my cycle helmet. No one or law should tell me how I would like to drive my vehicles unless it endangers someone else driving wicked, etc. Hey, if I wanted to drive my cycle in shorts (of which I usually do in the hot summer) and sandles (don’t do it, but have a right to), I should be able to do whatever I want just like not wearing a seat belt or wear a cycle helmet. Too many laws dictating how I live MY life. And don’t get me started on seat belts will save my life and don’t you ever think of someone besides yourself if I die like my family being without me if I die from lack of helmet use or seat belt use. Give me a break!

  7. TXTee says:

    I shall clarify my statement a bit further. =) Adult passengers over the age of 18 are not required to wear a seatbelt in the rear of the vehicle by TX state law. Children is a must! I agree in letting those that want to fly out of their car do so, or those that want to ride without a helmet to do so. I NEVER drive without a seatbelt or ride as an up front passenger without, but will ride in the back without… unsafe as that is. I also NEVER ride motorcycle without helmet unless I’m taking a spin IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD only, which is a small area and speed limit is 30. I do not always wear my offroad helmet when on the quad, but typically do. And I think everyone should have that personal right as MK said…family or no family…we’re all going to die some day and that’s your choice. Just don’t fly out your window in rush hour traffic and cause me to sit there longer…now THAT would p*ss me off…LOL….and I’m not kidding.

  8. Jason (Admin) says:

    NOT that anyone asked me, but here’s why I think seatbelt use should be mandatory: When people don’t wear their safety belt and they get in an accident, they’re more likely to get hurt…which means insurance companies pay out a larger claim, which means insurance rates go up for everyone.

    Ditto for health insurance costs.

    In my mind, mandatory seatbelt use isn’t just about safety: It’s about saving everyone money. Same thing for motorcycle helmets.

  9. TXTee says:

    Good point. I thought about that too but didn’t want to get too far off into the deep end of why it’s a good idea to wear it anyway.

  10. Mickey says:

    Jason being that I was in the military and retired. The military made it mandatory way before the states did. Like you mention health insurance was getting way to costly and trying to keep down the cost of healthcare was getting out of hand. Before it went mandatory across the nation then the military hit up the dependents of military members must wear seatbelts. The cost of dependents has skyrocketed so to keep the cost down the military made this mandatory and if a military member or dependent gets into a crash and no seatbelts are worn guess who pays for it? The dependent or military member. Makes good sense now to make sure everyone that is military/dependents wear seatbelts.

  11. Jason (Admin) says:

    Mickey – I didn’t know that, but it completely makes sense.

    I’m all about saving money. If we save enough, we can all go to Mexico for a week, right?

  12. TXTee says:

    No, but I’ll take a tequila if you do and drink responsibly at the house. 😉

  13. Mickey says:

    Baja time…….

  14. Jason (Admin) says:

    TXTee and Mickey – Both ideas sound good to me. Beach time sounds alright too.

  15. luke says:

    the fact is that seatbelt use should not be mandatory. i go by the motto “live free or die”. i personally think that laws that mandate the use of safety devices makes our governments nanny states. i dont even have to use mine up here in New Hampshire, anyway.

    • Luke,

      After watching family members die because they didn’t wear their seat belt, I just can’t agree with your statement. I think, maybe when the seat belt laws first came out and we didn’t have much safety testing there was a counter-argument to be made, but I just don’t see it as viable anymore.


      • luke says:

        Let me clarify statement in the fact that people SHOULD be responsible enough to use seat belts in their cars, but the government SHOULD NOT be invading our personal privacy by mandating use of seat belts. I personally don’t use my seat belt because it is uncomfortable and that should be my choice. as i said before, live free (and) or die.

        • Luke,

          See your point, don’t agree with you not wearing one. There are great ways to demonstrate against a view of tyrannical/nannyism rule, not buckling up, solely hurting yourself, isn’t one of them.

          However, thanks for commenting. 🙂


0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Google+ 0 Email -- 0 Flares ×