Harvard Health Letter

In Brief: Seat belts: A crash course in staying healthy

In Brief

Seat belts: A crash course in staying healthy

During a visit with a doctor, a Health Letter editor was caught off guard by this question: Do you always wear a seat belt? "Well, not always" was the honest and self-incriminating response.

Wearing a seat belt isn't usually considered a health habit, but it should be. If you're in the front seat, wearing a lap and shoulder belt reduces by about half your risk of death or serious injury if you're in a crash.

Seat belts primarily protect the people wearing them. But researchers have also found that if you don't buckle up, you could be imperiling the lives of others in the car, too. Several studies have shown that unrestrained occupants of a car increase the risk of others dying in a crash even if they're buckled in. The force of a collision can throw unbelted rear-seat passengers against the people in front of them and, similarly, drivers and front-seat passengers can be hurled backwards with deadly consequences.

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