Seatbelts serve the purpose of keeping you safe in case of an accident. They redistribute the force caused by a collision away from vital organs. 

However, many times, using them incorrectly may cause even greater damage than not using them at all. 

“When children are not properly restrained, meaning they are in a lap-only belt, they are in an ill-fitting lap/shoulder belt, or even if they moved the shoulder portion of the seat belt behind them or under their arm (whether in a booster seat or not) to keep it from rubbing their neck, they are at a greater risk of seat belt syndrome.”

Using the seatbelt incorrectly is so common that there is even a term known as a “seatbelt syndrome.” Unfortunately, this is the reason why children may get severely harmed or even killed. 

Such was the case with 6-year-old Samantha Swartwout from Virginia. While she and her father were driving around, he hit a tree and poor Samantha was nearly cut in half. 

Samantha had the seatbelt on, but she wasn’t sitting in a booster sit, so when the accident took place the seatbelt was drawn across her abdomen. 

When her mother was alerted of what had happened, she could never assume her daughter’s injuries were so severe. 

Her doctor, Charles Bagwell spoke of Samantha’s case on NBC12 and described how the inappropriately placed seatbelt made things worse. 

“Where you could see the stripe of the seat belt in an enormous bruise across her abdomen, as well as the fact that the edge, the far edge of the belt, had actually cut through her abdominal wall, and she had protruding intestines from that. She was just about cut in two. Much of which, quite frankly, couldn’t be repaired. The injury was too severe.”

In order to keep her organs inside her body, the doctors had to use “binding” material. 

Speaking of the accident, Samantha’s mom, Martin, says she regrets she didn’t force the girl use the booster sit although she wasn’t in the car that day. 

“A lot of people seem to think that when the children don’t fit so easily in the booster, that it’s okay to take them out of the booster. That’s not the case,” Martin warned.

She believes that many parents don’t realize the dangers of not using booster seats. But what her daughter had to go through should serve as a warning. She hopes no other child will ever suffer such injuries because of something that could be easily avoided. 

“Samantha also moved the shoulder belt behind her. So now the lap belt was carrying twice the force, and because she’s not tall enough without a booster, the lap belt went across her stomach instead of her hips. Doctors call the injury this caused ‘the seat belt syndrome.’”

Samantha now suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and still endures physical pain.  

No matter how much your children complain about the booster seats or having the seatbelt on, don’t ever let them enter the car without having them on. 

 If you want to learn more about the “seatbelt syndrome” check out the video below. 

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