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How Safe Are Your Seatbelts?

17 April 2002

The Land Transport Safety Authority is asking drivers to be on the lookout for damaged or worn safety belts.

"Wearing a safety belt is the best way to protect yourself in a crash, but everyday wear and tear can compromise that protection. Even a small tear or cut can reduce a safety belt's strength by up to 60 percent, and it could stretch or even snap in a serious crash," said Director of Land Transport Safety David Wright.

Mr Wright said other potential problems could include fraying of the belt material, damaged buckles or a poorly functioning retractor - the mechanism that makes modern belts fit snugly. Another potential danger sign is fading of the safety belt material, as prolonged exposure to sunlight can reduce its strength.

The LTSA has been working with vehicle inspectors and safety belt manufacturers to address these concerns. The authority has produced a leaflet for Warrant of Fitness agents to give to customers whose safety belts fail inspection.

The leaflet outlines the dangers of damaged and worn safety belts and explains the benefits of replacing them with modern belts, including those using advanced "webbing grabber" technology. These belts have clamps which grab onto the belt material in a crash, virtually eliminating the slippage that can occur with older belts.

Mr Wright said he encouraged people to keep an eye on their safety belts and to discuss any concerns with their mechanic or vehicle inspector. The safety belt leaflet can downloaded from the LTSA website: www.ltsa.govt.nz.

Ends

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