Coroners Service stresses need for vehicle seatbelt use

VICTORIA – The BC Coroners Service is urging all drivers and passengers in motor vehicles to use their seatbelts at all times.

The Coroners Service has just completed a detailed study of fatal motor vehicle crashes in the Interior of the province that shows a high proportion of those who died were not wearing seatbelts – with devastating results.

Although numerous studies by the RCMP and Transport Canada show that at least 90 per cent of British Columbians wear their seatbelts, the Coroners Service study showed that fewer than 60 per cent of those who died were wearing them at the time they crashed.

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe noted that studies throughout North America have consistently concluded that wearing a seatbelt correctly is the most effective single step vehicle occupants can take to prevent death in the event of a crash. The deaths of those who died despite correct seatbelt use confirm that some crashes are so devastating that no amount of safety equipment can save the occupants. However, coroners who attended the crashes described many examples in which seatbelt use would almost certainly have saved lives – people who were thrown through windshields, thrown around inside a vehicle, or ejected from a vehicle. The Interior study mirrors numerous studies which show that failure to wear a seatbelt significantly increases the risk of serious injury and death, independent of other factors in the crash.

The BCCS study looked in detail at fatal motor vehicle crashes for 2010 in the Interior Region of BC, a total of 85 deaths. (Crashes involving motorcycles, cyclists or pedestrians were not included.) Of the 85 cases, only 47 per cent were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash, 41 per cent were definitely not, and seatbelt usage was unknown in 12 per cent of the cases.

The Coroners Service is continuing work on similar studies in other regions of the province. The first study was done in the Interior Region because coroners there had noted a high proportion of persons not wearing their seatbelts in the crashes they were investigating.