How to Spot the Risks and Signs of a Seat Belt Malfunction

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Seat belts save lives. In 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that seat belts saved 15,000 lives in the United States. Across the country, approximately 90% of drivers and passengers buckle up. Buckling up is a critical safety step, but many are doing so without realizing they may be at risk of a seat belt malfunction. Many are buckling up with a false sense of security that could cause serious injury or death in a motor vehicle accident.

The Dearth of Details... and Known Recalls

It's uknown just how frequently seat belt failures occur. The NHTSA does not directly track this data. By some estimates, as many as 3 million people may suffer injuries as the result of a defective seat belts each year. These failures are often the result of design or manufacturing defects as opposed to user error.

What is known is that over the past few years numerous automakers have recalled vehicles over defective seat belts. Most recently, Ford recalled 108,000 midsized vehicles over seat belt defects that could prevent holding passengers in place during a collision. In June 2019, Land Rover recalled 16,000 vehicles due to faulty driver's side seat belts. In 2014, GM recalled 1.4 million vehicles over cables that could become fatigued and separate.

These are just a few of the seat belt recalls that have occurred over the past decade. It is vital for drivers who own these vehicles to verify that their seat belts have been fixed. Similarly, all drivers should verify that their particular vehicle and the installed seat belts are not subject to a past or present recall.

Signs of Seat Belt Failure

Accidents don't happen in slow motion and it may not be immediately clear that a seat belt malfunction has occurred. However, there are some telltale signs that the seat belt failed to operate as designed. These include when a belted passenger makes contact with the windshield, or when an individual wearing their belt suffers serious injuries. Other signs include visible tears and rips in the belt, or if the seat belt is loose following the crash.

Seat belt failures happen with far more frequency than they should. When a seat belt fails and injures you or your passengers, contact Sloat, Nicholson & Hoover, P.C. to discuss your legal options.