Background: Injury and death from road traffic collisions (RTCs) is a major health problem worldwide. The seat belt is the most important RTC safety innovation to reduce injury severity and death from RTCs. We aimed to study the effects of seat belt usage on injury patterns and outcomes of restrained vehicle occupants compared with unrestrained occupants after RTCs. Methods: RTC trauma patients who were vehicle occupants and admitted to Al-Ain and Tawam Hospitals, or who died after arrival at the emergency departments were prospectively studied during the period of April 2006 to October 2007. Demography of patients, position in the vehicle, usage of seat belts, injury severity markers, Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), hospital stay, need for surgery, injured body regions, and mortality were analyzed. Results: Of 783 vehicle occupants, 766 (98%) patients with known seat belt status were studied. Among them, the 631 (82.4%) who were unrestrained were significantly younger than the restrained patients (P < 0.0001). The Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) scores for the thorax, back, and lower extremity were significantly higher in unrestrained than in restrained patients (P = 0.001, P = 0.036, and P = 0.045 respectively). The GCS was significantly lower in unrestrained than in restrained patients (P = 0.006). More surgical operations were performed in the unrestrained patients (P = 0.027). Conclusions: Seat belt usage reduces the severity of injury, hospital stay, and number of operations in injured patients. Seat belt compliance is low in our community. More legal enforcement of seat belt usage is mandatory to reduce the severity of injury caused by RTCs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas