How Seat Belts Work

By: Tom Harris  | 
A driver puts on his seat belt. See more car safety pictures.

According to a research report from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, seat belts save approximately 15,000 lives in the United States each year. In 2020, there were 23,824 accident fatalities; 51 percent of those passengers were unrestrained.

While seat belts 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, seat belts 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 seat belts to see why they are one of the most important technologies in any car.