New Data on Risks of Seatbelt Non-Use

Tripling chances of survival in
traffic: seatbelts; © Hemera

The team at the Injury Research Center of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee used data from the 2002 Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System (CODES) for Wisconsin. They studied 23,920 crash occupants, ages 16 and over, who were treated in hospital-based emergency departments (ED)’s, statewide in 2002, and compared ED outcomes and characteristics of seatbelt users with non users.

“Unbelted crash occupants represented 68 percent of the patients dying in the ED’s,” says lead author Shane Allen, a third year medical student. “Among motor vehicle crash patients who survived, only 20 percent of surviving unbelted occupants were successfully treated in an ED and discharged. The remainder required hospital admission.”

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans ages two through 33 years. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, crash fatalities in Wisconsin rose from 763 in 2001, to 803 in 2002; while reported seatbelt use in the state dropped from 69 percent in 2001 to 66 percent in 2002. When compared to seatbelt users, Wisconsin motorists who didn’t use seatbelts were more likely to suffer severe injuries and require hospitalisation.

According to the study, unbelted study patients also incurred higher ED bills (average $681 vs. $509). However for many, higher ED bills were just the start, in terms of economic and personal costs. Unbelted survivors were more than twice as likely to be admitted to the hospital, and one and a half to nearly four times more likely to suffer moderate to severe injuries to the head, face, thorax, abdomen, spine and upper and lower extremities. The researchers also found that those who didn’t use seatbelts were more likely to be male (56 vs. 40 percent), have used alcohol (17 vs. 4 percent), be younger (average age 31 vs. 38 years old) and to be involved in single-vehicle accidents, such as rollovers (44 vs. 22 percent).

MEDICA.de; Source: Medical College of Wisconsin