The function of a seat belt is to restrain a passenger in the event of an accident, so they do not hit the interior of the automobile and keep the passenger inside the vehicle. A properly functioning seat belt will stop a passenger with the car.
There are several ways in which a seat belt can malfunction. Accidental unlatching has been associated with certain defective seat belts. Another seat belt defect occurs when the belt detaches from the vehicle. Older seat belts have been associated with tearing. Finally, ill-fitting shoulder harnesses can injure or strangle a passenger.
Seat belts may fail in a number of ways including:
Accident Unlatching: The seat belt buckle opens or unlatches by flying objects or inertia during an accident or sudden stop.
Belt Detaching: The seat belt dislodges from the permanent mount.
Tearing: The seat belt tears or rips during impact. This can be caused by defective material.
Ill-fitting Shoulder Harness: Due to design or improper installation, a shoulder harness may not fit properly. In this case, it can cause bodily injury to the wearer.
Seat belt use continues to increase with a least 80 percent of vehicle occupants wearing a seat belt every time. It is often difficult to quantify seat belt failure, especially in fatal auto accidents. If no one is able to verify a driver and/or passenger were wearing a seat belt, it is assumed they were not wearing one at all. However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), only one or two deaths are directly attributable to seat belt failure, though states that seat belt failure occurred in approximately 0.05 percent of all accidents involving children under the age of 14.
Currently, most states require all front seat passengers to utilize seat belts. In some states, it is also law for backseat passengers too. In addition, seat belts are used to restrain child car seats. See Child Car Seat Section and Basic Flow Car Seats and Booster Seats for additional information on product safety for these items.
The Gen3 seat belt buckle installed on certain Chrysler vehicles has been associated with accidental unlatching. A loose object or flailing body part can bump into the button and accidently unlatch the buckle during a rollover crash.
The Volvo XC60’s driver’s side seat belt detached from the anchor point during a side-impact crash test performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Volvo recalled nearly 10,000 vehicles to repair this defect.
In addition, Takata seat belts were the subject of a very large recall. These belts either failed to lock properly or would jam and not unlock after impact. More than 8 million seat belts were implicated in the recall affecting Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Ford, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Isuzu, General Motors, Suzuki, Daihatsu, Geo, GM and Chrysler.
Those who have suffered injuries as a result of an accident where a seat belt did not function properly may wish to file a lawsuit to seek compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering.