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Reduced fatalities related to rear seat shoulder belts
  1. Leon S Robertson
  1. Yale University and Nanlee Research, 2 Montgomery Parkway, Branford, CT 06405, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr L S Robertson, 160 Sharps Road, Globe, AZ 85501, USA
 (e-mail: leon.robertson{at}


Objective—To determine the effect on fatality rates in crashes of installation of shoulder belts in automobile back seats.

Methods—During 1988–96, fatalities to rear outboard seat occupants of passenger cars, classified by age of occupant and vehicle curb weight were matched to data on model year in which shoulder belts became standard equipment. The same data were obtained from the same years on back seat occupants in crashes from the Crashworthiness Data System. Weighted regression was performed on death rates per occupants in crashes by belt equipment, occupant age, and vehicle weight for all occupants and occupants who claimed to be restrained.

Results—The risk of death is significantly lower in vehicles equipped with shoulder belts, midsized to larger cars, and among children. Claimed child restraint use is higher in cars with shoulder belts and claimed use of shoulder belts is higher among adolescents and young adults but lower among those 35 and older. However, older occupants have lower death rates in shoulder belt equipped cars.

Conclusions—Shoulder belts substantially reduce risk of death relative to lap belts at prevalent use rates in each age group. Belt effectiveness when used cannot be estimated precisely because of invalid claimed use, but the lowered rates among vehicles with shoulder belts indicates that effectiveness given prevalent use is far more efficacious than lap belts without shoulder belts.

  • seat belts
  • belt use
  • child restraints
  • vehicle restraint effectiveness

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