Seat belts are one of the most important safety features of automobiles today. Since they were first mandated by the Department of Transportation, automobile makers have experimented with various designs that are supposed to keep people safe but also allow for comfort.
However, these safety devices do not always work as they are intended. American automakers have issued more than 1,000 defective seat belt recalls since 1996, and many new designs created that were supposed to increase seat belt comfort, failed to do the job in keeping passengers safe.
One of these designs, which did not end up keeping people safe, was a “window shade” seatbelt. This design allowed an individual to introduce some slack into the seat belt intentionally. An individual could lock the belt in place and then go back and take the slack out when it was no longer needed. This device was used by many domestic auto manufacturers and used a tension relieving device.
Unfortunately, many people accidentally introduced slack which then was still present at the time of the accident. Another problem was that no one realized that any excess slack can be a grave hazard.
Slack in a seatbelt greatly undercuts the effectiveness of the device. It allows for severe head impacts with the car’s interior structure including the steering wheel, the windshield, the windshield header, or the dashboard.
Another design problem involves spool out injuries. Seatbelts in general are designed to lock when a vehicle experiences a certain level of deceleration, such as that associated with an impending collision. Certain belt designs contribute to the phenomenon of “skip lock.” This problem occurs when the seatbelt locks up late in the accident sequence or fails to lock up at all.
When a skip lock problem occurs, it results in excessive seat belt slack which again allows for the passenger’s head to collide with various parts of the interior of the car. In addition to head injuries, this problem contributes to spinal injuries.