For most of his life, Bob Simon was best known for his hard-hitting reporting on CBS News. Unfortunately, when most New Yorkers think of Simon now, they are reminded of the tragic car accident that claimed his life last winter. One of the critical details that emerged in the wake of this deadly crash was that Simon was not wearing a seat belt when the black for-hire Lincoln Town Car in which he rode collided with a Mercedes-Benz on the West Side Highway. The 73-year-old newsman suffered severe injuries to the stomach and head to which he would succumb shortly after that.
Seat belts slash risks in half
As this high-profile fatal car accident demonstrates, individuals who do not wear seat belts stand a far greater chance of severe injuries and death. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), wearing seat belts reduces serious accident-related injuries and deaths by about 50%. To that end, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deem wearing a seat belt “the most effective way to prevent death and serious injury in a crash,” with 53% percent of all car accident deaths befalling individuals who were not wearing seat belts.
The bottom line is that seat belts stop drivers and passengers from being ejected from vehicles during crashes. When ejections do occur, more than 75% of such victims perish.
Seat belts: the right way
While there is no way to argue with the benefits that seat belts provide, it is critical to use these safety devices properly. Specifically, lap belts should fit snugly across pelvis and hips. They should never be strapped across the stomach. Similarly, shoulder restraints must cross the chest and collarbone, and should never cross in front of the neck or face.
Notwithstanding New York’s mandatory seat belt law which generally requires vehicle occupants to wear both lap belts and shoulder harnesses, those who drive medallion taxicabs and for-hire vehicles such as Town Cars, as well as their passengers, are actually exempt from laws regarding car seats and seatbelts. Police cars, ambulances, and buses are also exempt from seat belt laws.
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