According to a research report from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, seatbelts save approximately 13,000 lives in the United States each year. Furthermore, the NHTSA estimates that 7,000 U.S. car accident fatalities would have been avoided if the victims had been wearing belts.

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While seatbelts do occasionally contribute to serious injury or ­death, nearly all safety experts agree that buckling up dramatically increases your chances of surviving an accident. According to the NHTSA, seatbelts reduce the risk of death for a front seat car occupant by about 50 percent.

When you think about it, this is absolutely amazing: How can a piece of fabric end up being the difference between life and death? What does it actually do? In this article, we'll examine the technology of seatbelts to see why they are one of the most important technologies in any car.