Did You Know Seatbelts Should be Replaced After Most Accidents?

by NPHM | September 14th, 2020

Buckling up is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself when you get inside a vehicle. It not only prevents you from being thrown around inside the cabin of the vehicle in a crash and allows you to be protected by your vehicle’s airbags, but it also prevents ejection from the vehicle, which is almost always fatal.

But while seatbelts work extremely well when it comes to keeping vehicle occupants safer during crashes, they don’t work so well after that. In fact, seatbelts should be replaced after a crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considers them to be “single-use items,” and a collision counts as that single-use.

How Do Seatbelts Work?

Although they seem simple, seatbelts are complex mechanisms. Modern seatbelts have multiple parts that make them effective at keeping occupants safe and that can be damaged during crashes, including:

  • Pretensioners—If you’ve ever felt your seatbelt tighten when you have to suddenly slow down or stop, that’s the pretensioner working. It reels in all slack on your seatbelt to hold you in place before impact.
  • Locking retractors—This device ensures that you can still move around while your seatbelt is on and is activated via its pretensioner. Without it, your seatbelt would either be too loose or too tight, making it much less effective.
  • Buckles—Your seatbelt is only effective if it’s securely attached to your seat. That’s accomplished by inserting the end of the seatbelt into the buckle itself, which can be released by pushing a button.
  • Polyester belt—Finally, there’s the belt itself. Modern seatbelts are made of polyester, and they’re designed to be breathable, comfortable, and extremely strong during crashes. They should cover both your waist and shoulder (not your neck) for maximum effectiveness.

All of these components can be damaged during a crash, meaning they won’t be able to protect you as effectively in any other crash or sudden stop that happens after that crash. For example, a broken pretensioner may cause your seatbelt to remain slack before impact, negating its ability to hold you in place.

A damaged locking retractor may fail to apply the proper amount of tension while you wear your seatbelt, making it too loose or too tight. A broken buckle can make your seatbelt become unbuckled or loose, while a damaged or stretched belt may rip during impact.

If you have any reason to suspect your seatbelt has been damaged, it is important to replace it without delay, since you can’t predict when you might be in another crash.

When Do You Need to Replace Your Seatbelts?

Experts recommend replacing your vehicle’s seatbelts after a crash that involved significant amounts of tension on your seatbelts. Also, some vehicle manuals even recommend replacing seatbelts that weren’t in use during a crash, as the extreme forces may damage unused seatbelts.

Finally, you may need to replace your seatbelts in an older vehicle, even if it’s never been involved in a crash. That’s because components break down over time, and your seatbelts may no longer be as safe and reliable as they were when the vehicle was new.

How Do You Replace Your Seatbelts?

It’s best to get your seatbelts replaced at an authorized mechanic, body shop, or service center. Attempting to replace your seatbelts could save you money, but it could also increase your risk of injury or death in a crash, and it could even prevent you from filing a compensation claim for a future accident.

If you purchased a used vehicle, be sure to check its vehicle history report to find out if it has ever been in an accident. If it has, ensure that the seatbelts were replaced. This information may be in the history report, or it may require an inspection by a certified mechanic or body shop expert.

Our Lawyers Are Here for You After a Car Accident

Even with seatbelts, airbags, and all the modern safety features on today’s vehicles, crashes still occur, and people still get hurt. That’s why we’re still working hard to protect the rights of injured Ohioans.

If you or someone you love was injured in an auto accident, you need experienced legal help on your side, and we want to be the law firm you entrust with your compensation claim. We have more than 90 years of experience helping injured victims like you, and we know what it takes to win. Contact us today for a free consultation.