Injuries in restrained motor vehicle accident victims

Ann Emerg Med. 1994 Jul;24(1):77-84. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(94)70166-0.


Passenger restraints reduce fatalities and serious injuries. Restraint systems alter the distribution of injuries seen in accident victims, and they cause a number of injuries. The distribution of injuries is dependent on the type of restraint. Automatic motorized shoulder belts are being used without the accompanying manual lap belt. This greatly reduces the effectiveness of the system and is equal to the two-point shoulder belt of the 1960s. Airbag injuries include abrasions to the face, neck, and chest; minor burns to the upper extremities; and chemical keratitis. Airbags have been shown to reduce injuries overall, especially when used in conjunction with a lap and shoulder belt. Elderly patients incur more rib and sternal fractures due to seat belts than do younger patients. Nevertheless, restraint systems are effective at reducing serious internal injuries in this population. Children who are too large for child safety seats but too small for adult seat belts are at increased risk for injury. Improvement in restraint systems for children in this age range is recommended. All pregnant women should be encouraged to wear seat belts because they reduce maternal injuries, and there is no evidence that they increase the risk of fetal loss. In view of the injury reduction associated with passenger restraint systems, emergency physicians should emphasize to their patients the importance of wearing seat belts.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic* / statistics & numerical data
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Pregnancy
  • Seat Belts / adverse effects*
  • Seat Belts / statistics & numerical data
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / etiology*