Safety Belts In Police Cars May Be Life-Threatening

May 17, 2022

The National Police Board of Sweden contacted VTI [i.e., the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute] during an internal investigation of a traffic accident in which a policewoman was killed. Even though there was nothing about this accident that expressly indicated that the equipment which the police carried in their uniform directly caused the tragic outcome of the accident, it gave the impetus for an investigation into whether any of the many items of equipment carried on the uniform entails a risk and whether appropriate measures might also be identified to change or reduce the risks. It was therefore decided to study the working environment of the police in police cars by performing two collision tests.

In two crash tests, the hypothesis that the personal equipment the police carry on their uniform might affect the function of the seat belt in a collision was put to the test. To sum up, it can be said that nothing was found to indicate that the flak jacket has a significant adverse effect on the function of the belt. It was further found that the items of equipment carried on the equipment belt around the waist do not themselves entail any significant increase in risk, even though it cannot be excluded that even small but sharp objects can cause local but severe injuries in accidents. More generally, it is found that, in a purely physical sense, the size of the uniform belt displaces the lap portion of the seat belt from its correct position around the hips of the wearer, which gives rise to an evident risk of submarining. A standard belt tensioner cannot recover all the slack the equipment induces.

Many professional groups use a vehicle as an essential part of their work. The vehicle is not only a means of transport; it is a tool and, to a large extent, a workplace.

Vehicles used as part of people’s work, or those who use the car, are often equipped with tools and other equipment that may conflict with the vehicle’s damage-alleviating system. For example, the police, ambulance, and rescue services have many such cars with special equipment. Still, it is probable that guards, veterinary surgeons, and district nurses also often have vehicles and equipment which may conflict with the requirement for vehicle safety in a crash.

Risks probably also exist for mail carriers in post vehicles, tradespeople in specially constructed vehicles or with many tools in their tool belts, and perhaps also for the drivers of vehicles for transporting valuables. These vehicles are probably neither easily deformable in a collision nor particularly easy for the Rescue Service to work on in the event of a rescue attendance after a traffic accident.

We have become accustomed to modern vehicles with all kinds of safety equipment. Regarding direct personal protection in a collision, seat belts, and airbags first come to mind. Different forms of load anchorage systems may also be said to be part of direct personal protection. What is more concealed but equally crucial from the standpoint of collision protection are details such as the design of the seat, the design of the neck/head restraint, and, e.g., the geometry of the seat belt and the presence of belt tensioners and their function. The center usually also has submarining protection that the naked eye cannot see.

A modern car is subjected to crash tests and receives approval, with only” ordinary” dummies placed in the car seat, belted up correctly, and with airbags, etc., activated according to all the rules. An alternative, professional use of the vehicle, about the crash safety aspects of the clothing or other equipment details of the passengers, is probably never published.

Source: VTI