Elderly motor vehicle occupants are over represented among serious occupant casualty numbers, and the most common region of the elderly occupant’s body injured in crashes is the chest. Chest injuries carry a significantly higher risk of death among elderly than younger occupants. While three point seat belts are effective in reducing the risk of death and injury in Crashes in the general population, the seat belt is often cited as a source of chest injury among elderly occupants. Little is known about the seat belt wearing characteristics of older drivers. This study aims to describe seat belt wearing patterns among drivers aged 75 years and older by examining quality of seat belt use in terms of correctness and fit.
Driver’s aged 75 years and older were interviewed and observed in their vehicles. Demographic, vehicle, and seat belt wearing data were collected during interview. Seat belt information included selfreported frequency of use and response to questions about positioning of seat belts, ease of use and comfort. Seat belt fit was assessed visually. Sash belt fit was judged ‘good’ if it passed over the mid portion of the shoulder. ‘Poor’ sash belt fit included belts positioned off the shoulder, across the tip of the shoulder or in contact with the neck. Lap belt fit was judged ‘good’ if the belt passed low over the abdomen with at least the bottom edge of the webbing in contact with the upper thigh. Participant height, weight and seated height were also recorded. A sample of 380 participants is being sought.
To date, data has been collected for 115 participants and data collection continues. Preliminary data indicates high rates of self –reported seat belt use, with only one participant reporting occasional nonuse. However 22% indicate that they regularly reposition the sash portion of the seat belt. This is despite 92% reporting that wearing a seat belt is comfortable. In our sample, 44% reported having vehicles that allowed sash height adjustment, 30 were unsure if their vehicle had this feature, and only 70. % who had this feature, had ever used it. Visual observation of belt fit revealed good sash and lap belt fit in 30% of participants. Sash belt fit was good in 69% of participants, with 28% positioned off or across the tip of the shoulder, and 5% in contact with the neck. The lap belt was too high in 43% of occupants. Poor lap belt positioning was significantly associated with greater body mass index (BMI), but there was no association between sash belt fit and BMI or stature.
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