1987-02-23

Injury Patterns of Fatally Impacted Car Front Passengers in Regard to the Three-Point Seat Belt and Related Occupant Injury Modes 870225

At the Institute of Forensic Medicine of the University of Heidelberg, post-mortems were performed on 117 victims who died in car crashes in the period from August 1, 1984 until July 31, 1986.
This period was the initial two years of the seat belt law in the Federal Republic of Germany requiring front seat car passengers to wear safety belts by fining.
The increased usage of safety belts from approximately 50% to about 94% was found to change injury patterns significantly.
Injury patterns of belt-wearing occupants were found to differ markedly from those of unbelted passengers provided the passenger compartment remained uncompromised.
A belted driver or front seat passenger in a frontal collision environment, sustains mostly trunk injuries whereas the same type of collision in the non-belted occupant involves head, lower and upper limbs, and pelvis.
When legal aspects are involved, the medicolegal community is called upon more and more to answer two questions: 1.) Did the occupant wear a seat belt? and 2.) What influence on the injury pattern would a correctly worn seat belt restraint have had?

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