'In a crash it could slice into you like cheese wire': RSA expert says wearing seatbelt under your arm can cause horrific injury
Our RSA expert highlights medic's verdict: 'In a crash it could slice into you like cheese wire.'
Road safety is a male problem. Almost 7-in-10 killed on the road is male. Young men are a particular problem. Women are safer drivers. This isn't just me saying it: crash and driving offences data support the fact.
But this article is about a pattern of behaviour that is uniquely female, that gets very little attention but has the potential to cause catastrophic injuries.
I am talking about wearing the seatbelt under your arm. From casual observations I see it regularly. I've asked why they do it and responses have ranged from not wanting the belt to ruin the tan, or their outfit, to comfort - it cuts their neck or is uncomfortable across the front of their body.
I think it's fair to say that, for the most part, women have more common sense when using the road, but when it comes to wearing a seatbelt this goes out the window for some.
The RSA commissioned research among women in the 17-34 age group to see how they wore seatbelts.
In particular we wanted to see if there was evidence that a cohort of this group tend to wear seatbelts under their arms.
A sample of 300 between the age of 17 and 34 years was surveyed.
We asked questions designed to explore a series of car behaviours linked to misuse of seatbelts.
While the results showed seatbelt wearing is consistently strong among young women, it is not universal. Front seat wearing rates were up in the 90pc-plus region, but 23pc admitted to not always wearing a belt as a rear passenger.
The incidence of wearing the seatbelt under the arm is significant: 28pc admit to doing it themselves. This rises to 35pc of women 29 and younger. But the big concern was that almost 50pc indicated their friends do so. The claimed incidence of friends wearing the seatbelt under their arm is also higher among younger women.
The main reasons for putting the seatbelt under the arm were to relieve neck tension (49pc) and general comfort (47pc). Only 9pc said it was to protect their tan, or 7pc to protect clothing.
When asked how safe they consider it to wear under the arm a shocking 28pc considered it 'safe'. At least this would suggest the other two-thirds should be open to changing their behaviour when presented with the stark consequences of seatbelt misuse.
Many were quite surprised when told that 'how you wear your seatbelt can be as important as whether you wear your seatbelt or not'; that placing the shoulder strap under your arm leaves your upper torso - including your neck, face and head - completely unrestrained during a collision.
And in such a situation you would be exposed to horrific injury.
The research did identify one solution to the problem. One-third of women said they had been asked to wear the seatbelt properly or, after seeing someone else place the belt under their arm, had asked others to wear it properly.
The solution, though, needs to be driven by education and raising awareness of this dangerous habit and its potential consequences.
And this is something we are addressing at the moment.
One of the first campaigns of the New Year is to address the misuse of seatbelt by women. Because as Dr Gerry Lane, the consultant in Emergency medicine who featured in our Seatbelt Safety TV ad a number of years ago, said: "…and what happens when you wear your seatbelt the wrong way is equally mind bending.
"If you're crazy enough to wear your seatbelt under your arm and if you meet me after a crash it will have sliced into you like cheese wire lacerating your vital organs."