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When someone is ejected from a vehicle, it is usually assumed that he/she was not wearing a seatbelt. This assumption may be wrong. Laboratory testing has shown that seatbelts can unlatch under real world crash conditions. These cases are difficult to prove so it is important that the vehicle, seatbelt and scene be evaluated as soon as possible by someone with experience in seatbelt issues.

Most seatbelt cases involve problems with the buckle or the retractor. Certain buckles are known to unlatch due to impacts that may be experienced in a collision. This problem is easy to fix, but so far most manufacture have not elected to fix it in all their vehicles. Another problem is referred to as false latch. This occurs when the buckle appears to be latched but it s not truly secure. Another common problem is occurs when the belt unspools in a collision allowing the occupant to slip under or over the belt.

It is important for law enforcement and others in the community to recognize these potential problems. A tragedy cause by a defective product should not be compounded by a faulty investigation. People who always wear their seatbelts should not be falsely accused of not wearing a seatbelts when, in fact, it was the seatbelt that failed.

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