Seat belts: Are you using yours properly?

Using your seat belt correctly a matter of life and death

Around the States
GET IT RIGHT: Ensuring your seat belt fits properly could prove critical in a crash.

GET IT RIGHT: Ensuring your seat belt fits properly could prove critical in a crash.


A new booklet aimed at seniors offers advice on fitting and using seat belts.


On the face of it, a seat belt seems a straightforward item in a car.  But it is a very effective piece of technology, with some pretty impressive physics behind it.

Research shows correct that along with airbags and improved vehicle design, correct seat belt usage is critical to the occupant’s safety.

So it may come as a surprise just how many people use them incorrectly.

A new booklet published by Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and Transurban reviews how seat belts are designed to work, brings greater awareness to the importance of good seat belt fit and delivers tips on senior driver safety.

They include

  • Position the lap belt low, touching your thighs so that is positioned over the hip bones as opposed to higher up on your belly where critical organs are.
  • Make sure the shoulder belt sits across the collarbone midway between the neck and shoulder, using the sash belt height adjuster if necessary (it is located on the column behind the window).
  • The belt should also run diagonally across your chest.
  • Positioning a sash belt under arm or behind back increases likelihood of serious injury in a crash because  the seat belt is no longer applying the crash forces to the strongest parts of the body.
  • Make sure the belt is snug.
  • Don’t reposition your seat belt just because it feels uncomfortable. Look for ways to make adjustments to improve comfort. 
  • Use the height adjusters. Older drivers who do not use them are twice more likely to experience poor seat belt fit and report discomfort using seat belts.

The Transurban Road Safety Centre based at NeuRA in Randwick, NSW, is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment that allows researchers to study the frailty of the ageing human body, and to understand how vehicles and equipment can best protect road users from injury. 

“As we age, our body shape changes,” Transurban road safety specialist Liz Waller said. “Research shows that variations in body shape such as increased weight or obesity, which may occur as a result of ageing, can negatively influence seat belt fit.”

The booklet is the first in a series of publications NeuRA is developing in partnership with Transurban, to be released over the coming years. The pamphlet is to provide feedback and advice to seniors about safe mobility.


On average, around 250 Australians aged over 65 die every year in car crashes, and more than 4000 are hospitalised after a crash.

Injuries sustained by elderly drivers are more severe than those in younger age groups.

To download a copy, click here.

The Senior