Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

Buckle Up in Your Truck

While rollover crashes can happen in any type of vehicle, pickup trucks are twice as likely to rollover as passenger cars. Rollover crashes are directly related to a vehicle’s stability in turns. That stability is influenced by the relationship between the center of gravity and the track width, or distance between the left and right wheels. It is a high center of gravity combined with the narrow track that makes the vehicle unstable in fast turns or sharp changes of direction – increasing the odds that it will tip over once it begins to skid sideways. The problem is more pronounced in 4-wheel drive trucks and sport-utility vehicles, which have a higher ground clearance for off-road driving. Ejection of occupants who are not wearing safety belts is the leading cause of death in rollover crashes. There is a way to dramatically increase your survival in the event of a crash: the simple act of wearing a safety or seat belt.

In Montana in 2012, approximately half of all crashes involved only one vehicle. Those single vehicle crashes account for over 70 percent (more than 2 out of 3) of the fatalities. In three out of four fatal rollovers, the victims were ejected from the vehicle because they were not wearing a seatbelt. Something that only takes three seconds to do could save so many lives. While the reasons for these crashes are many, some of the most common causes are some form of distraction by the driver, wildlife on the road, driving too fast for conditions and overcorrecting. Your best line of defense for any and all of these is to fasten that seat belt so that if a rollover were to happen, you would remain in the safety cage of the cab.

Why is it that so many pickup truck drivers do not wear their seat belts? NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) did a study of safety belt attitudes among rural pickup truck drivers in four states (Georgia, Michigan, Texas and Montana) in 2004. Montana was the only state that did not have a primary seat belt law. The men in these studies gave their reasons why they do not wear their safety belts in their pickup trucks. They said they felt that safety belt use is less critical when in a pickup truck because it is a safer vehicle due to its “sheer size.” Also, they felt safety belts were not needed on short trips or on local roads with low speed limits. Some felt safety belts were not needed in good weather. Others gave reasons that seat belts are uncomfortable, restrictive, a “hassle” with frequent getting in and out and not needed on short trips.

To address the low speeds and short trips, most crashes occur within 25 miles of home and at speeds less than 40mph. Remember that a 180lb.person, going 35 mph, in a crash could be thrown out of the cab with 6300 pounds of force - if unbuckled. There is also more than one collision during a crash: the vehicle with the object, the person with some part of the interior of the cab and the internal organs with the ribs, skull, etc. To prevent or lessen these last two collisions, the safety belt works in tandem with the air bags, allowing you to ‘ride down’ with the crash forces inside the vehicle. And, if your seat belt is uncomfortable, try adjusting the straps and/or take it to the dealer so see what can be done to make it more comfortable. While the truck has the misconception of safety with its large frame and high clearance, keep in mind that you need that safety belt in order to remain inside the cab. Protection or Ejection? The choice is yours. Buckle up in your truck, it could save your life.

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