Buckled up?

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: July 20th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

If you’re listening to this radio program in your car, is your seat belt fastened?

Although some states have laws requiring seat belt use, many people still think buckling up should be a personal decision.

But perhaps you should know the implications of that decision.

A recent study by the Medical College of Wisconsin reported that among people who survived a car wreck and made it to the hospital alive, those who weren’t wearing seat belts were three times more likely to die in the emergency room.

Those who shunned seat belts were also more likely to have suffered moderate to severe injuries to the head, face, chest, abdomen and spine. It cost about twenty-five percent more to treat these patients in the E-R. And they were twice as likely to require admission to the hospital, where they incurred additional expenses.

The study reviewed the experience of twenty-four-thousand people involved in car wrecks in Wisconsin in 2002. The emergency physicians who conducted it used a statistical model that calculates the odds of any particular medical outcome occurring based on seatbelt use. With this predictive tool, knowing in advance whether a crash victim was wearing a seat belt is a tipoff to what kind of injuries to expect.

That the study relies on calculating odds is apt, since not buckling up could be considered tantamount to gambling.

So for those of you listening who aren’t wearing seat belts, the real question may be “How lucky do you feel today?”