Could a seatbelt be dangerous for me?

I am 4ft10 and when I sit in a car seat the seatbelt almost invariably cuts directly accross my neck. I worry that should I actually be in a car accident, this would dome more harm than if I were not wearing a belt at all - damage to the vulnerable neck area, possible strangulation if I pass out (and, if I am honest, a sneaking fear of decapitation).

I’m not talking about when sitting in the front passenger seat, since obviously any risks would be outweighed by the benefit of it stopping me being hurled through the windscreen. But if I’m sitting in the back behind one of the front seats (and assuming the back of the front seat is soft), might it be safer for me to not wear a seatbelt?

What about hitching the seat belt, but putting the shoulder strap behind your back? That way, you wouldn’t run the risk of the shoulder strap hurting your neck, but you would still have the benefit of the waist restraint.

It doesn’t matter how soft the seatback in front of you may be - if you’re completely unrestrained, you are a danger to yourself and other passengers. There have been cases where the driver and front seat passengers have been wearing their seatbelts, but have been badly injured by the passengers from the rear seat flying forward and hitting them. Also, in accidents such as roll-overs, it’s common for unrestrained passengers to be thrown from the vehicle and seriously injured.

This is all off the top of my head, from some litigation that I’ve been involved in; I’ll see if I can find some cites.

Eh, not so good. Lap belts only are preferable to no belt at all, but a lap-shoulder belt is designed to spread deceleration forces across the pelvis and chest. These bones are pretty strong and can withstand more of the force generated by a sudden stop.

With a lap belt only, one runs the risk of jacknifing and focusing the deceleration force on the lumbar spine as the torso moves forward and the lower body snaps up while decelerating. This can cause serious spinal injuries and increases the risk of paraplegia or major spinal cord damage. There is also a risk of “submarining,” or sliding out under the lap belt and flying unrestrained around the interior of the car.

Fran, if the car you ride in has adjustable shoulder belt anchors, use them to adjust the shoulder belt so it comes in just over your shoulder and across your chest. If you don’t have shoulder belt anchors that can be moved to different positions, there are adapters and other devices that can be used to improve the fit of the shoulder belt. I’d check into those; they’re simple to use and small enough to carry in a pocket, purse or backpack when you’re riding in your friends’ cars.


There are devices that do move the seat belt away from the neck so that children can use the seat belt. It basically attatches to both belts and pulls the top one down a bit. Since I don’t really look for them I don’t know the cost nor where to get them.

They do have straps to lower the seat belts for kids. I would look in places like Toys R Us for them. Also stores like Target or WalMart might have them. Look in the section of the store where they sell the child seats.

Yes, get the kid adjusters. If you can’t find one, I’ll get one for you.

As you probably know, an airbag is very, very dangerous for someone your size. You could be decapitated and I am not kidding. If you ever get a car with one, get it disabled.

Thanks for the responses. I’m not keen on just having a waist restraint, for the reasons that Zappo mentioned, but I will definitely look into getting a strap/device thing for lowering the seatbelt - I’ll check my local Toys R Us. Cranky - I don’t drive and our car doesn’t have airbags, so we’re okay on that but thanks for the warning and concern.

In my car, the shoulder belts are adjustable, thank God. I was always worried that my collarbone would be broken in an accident, because that seems to be where the belts hit me (I am 5’2").

In a rollover, you do not want to be unrestrained. That’s how people who may have otherwise have been uninjured get broken necks.

Sitting in the back without a seatbelt is a bad idea. If you crash at 30 mph you go forward with the force of a baby elephant (or so I heard).

If you were my child, I’d have you sitting in a booster seat. Seat belt adjusters are not a good idea, as they might cause the lap portion of the belt to cross your abdomen instead of your pelvis. What you need is to be sitting higher.

Since it is obvious a booster seat is not an option for you, you need to sit on a firm cushion or have something custom made to make you sit higher. This will protect you from a badly placed seatbelt and also from the airbag. If I were you, I’d be talking to someone in the automotive industry about having a custom “booster” made.