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Local TBI Attorney Explains How Seat Belts Help Prevent Traumatic Brain Injuries

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is not just a medical term; it's a life-changing event. Whether you're driving down Olean Boulevard, in Port Charlotte, or waiting at the intersection of Veterans Boulevard and Peachland Boulevard, a sudden crash can lead to devastating consequences.

What Exactly Is Are Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

A TBI is not just a bump on the head. It's an injury that can lead to paralysis, cognitive impairment, drastic personality changes, and even death. One of the leading causes of TBI is motor vehicle accidents. The sheer force of a collision, especially at high speeds on roads like Edgewater Drive or Midway Boulevard, can cause the brain to jolt or hit the inside of the skull, leading to damage. During a sudden deceleration (crash) the G-Forces, momentum and inertia act on your body. Basically your skull stops suddenly and your brain wants to keep moving, so the brain gets pressed against the interior of the skull. This pressure can result in micro injuries to the brain that result in a TBI diagnosis.

Yet, something as simple as wearing a seat belt can significantly reduce the risk of TBI. Surprisingly, despite the clear benefits, a significant number of Floridians choose to forgo this life-saving measure. In the Sunshine State, it is nice to go for a leisurely drive, but one out of every ten drivers and occupants in Florida do not use a seat belt. This statistic is alarming, especially when considering the intersections and busy streets of Port Charlotte, or intersections like Cochran Boulevard and Quesada Avenue.

The Role Seat Belts Can Play In TBI Prevention

Seat belts are designed to keep you securely in your seat during a collision. By doing so, they prevent your head from violently hitting the steering wheel, dashboard, or windows. This is crucial on streets like El Jobean Road or Paulson Drive, where sudden stops or high-speed collisions can occur.

Moreover, seat belts prevent rapid forward and backward motion during a crash, which can cause the brain to hit the inside of the skull. This is especially vital in preventing the kind of TBIs that occur without any external blow to the head.

Additionally, seat belts play a crucial role in preventing ejections during a crash. Being thrown out of a vehicle, especially on busy roads like Veterans Boulevard or Murdock Circle, can lead to catastrophic injuries or fatalities.

The Physics Behind the Protection During An Accident

When a vehicle is in motion, it possesses kinetic energy. In the event of a sudden stop or collision, this energy needs to be dissipated. Without a seat belt, the occupants of the vehicle become the primary medium for this energy transfer, leading to potential injuries. Seat belts distribute this force across stronger parts of the body, like the chest and pelvis, reducing the risk of injury.

On roads like El Jobean Road or Paulson Drive, where the unexpected can happen in a split second, this distribution of force can mean the difference between a minor injury and a life-threatening one. The sudden deceleration in a crash can cause the brain to move violently within the skull, leading to TBIs. Seat belts significantly reduce this movement, safeguarding the brain.

Reducing Injury From Secondary Collisions

In many accidents, secondary collisions pose a significant threat. After the initial impact, unbelted occupants can collide with the interior parts of the vehicle, such as the steering wheel, dashboard, or even other passengers. These secondary impacts can be as damaging, if not more so, than the initial crash. By keeping occupants in place, seat belts minimize the risk of these secondary collisions, further reducing the chances of TBIs.

Seat Belts Prevent Passenger Vehicle Ejections

The scene of an accident where an occupant has been ejected from the vehicle is devastating. The chances of survival decrease dramatically in such cases. On local streets like Veterans Boulevard or the intersections around Murdock Circle, the risks are even higher. Seat belts ensure that occupants remain inside the vehicle, which is especially crucial during rollovers or high-impact collisions.

Wearing Your Seat Belt Correctly

It's not just about wearing a seat belt; it's about wearing it correctly. The lap belt should snugly fit across your hips, not your stomach. The shoulder strap should be adjusted so it doesn't touch or rest on your neck. Remember, wearing only the lap belt or placing the shoulder strap behind you is not just ineffective but can also be dangerous.

The Myth of Air Bags Keeping You Safe

Many drivers mistakenly believe that airbags are a replacement for seat belts. This couldn't be further from the truth. Airbags are designed to work in tandem with seat belts. Without the restraint of a seat belt, a person can be thrust into an inflating airbag with such force that it causes severe injuries or even death.

The Dual Role of Air Bags and Seat Belts

Air bags are supplemental restraint systems (SRS), meaning they are designed to supplement the protection offered by seat belts, not replace them. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has consistently emphasized that airbags and seat belts are most effective when used together1.

When a collision occurs, the seat belt restrains the occupant, spreading the crash forces across the body's stronger areas and preventing the occupant from being ejected. The airbag, on the other hand, acts as a cushion, reducing the risk of the occupant's head and upper body hitting the vehicle's interior2.

The High Risks of Relying Solely on Air Bags

Relying solely on airbags without wearing a seat belt can have severe consequences:

Out-of-Position Occupants: Without a seat belt to hold them in place, occupants can be out of position when the airbag deploys. This can result in the airbag striking the occupant with great force, leading to injuries or fatalities3.

Ejection From The Vehicle: Airbags do not prevent occupants from being ejected from the vehicle in a crash. Ejections are often fatal, and the risk of ejection is significantly higher without a seat belt4.

Inflation Speed: Airbags inflate rapidly, often reaching speeds of up to 200 mph. If an occupant is not restrained by a seat belt and is too close to the air bag when it deploys, the force of the inflation can cause severe injuries5.

Seat belts, more than just fabric restraints, are the first line of defense against the violent forces of a collision. They not only prevent ejections but also minimize the risk of secondary impacts within the vehicle. On the other hand, airbags, while a significant advancement in vehicular safety, are not standalone protectors. They are designed to work in tandem with seat belts, cushioning occupants and reducing the severity of potential injuries.

The misconception that airbags can replace seat belts is not just flawed but dangerous. Together, these safety features offer synergistic protection, significantly reducing the risk of traumatic brain injuries, especially in high-risk zones like the busy intersections of Port Charlotte.

Life is unpredictable. As local attorneys focused on helping people in our community who have been hurt in serious crashes, we have personally seen the devastating aftermath of accidents on local roads. We cannot stress enough the importance of wearing a seat belt. It's a simple act that can save your life and prevent severe injuries, like TBIs.

So, whether you're driving down Collingswood Boulevard or taking a turn at the intersection of Midway Boulevard and Aaron Street, buckle up.

If you have been injured in a car accident in Port Charlotte contact our local Port Charlotte office today for a free consultation.

1 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "Air Bags."
2 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). "Q&As: Airbags."
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Motor Vehicle Safety."
4 NHTSA. "Seat Belts: Get the Facts."

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