Teens | 13-17 years


Nationwide, car crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens. Did you know two-thirds of teens killed in crashes were not wearing seat belts? In the event of a sudden stop or car crash, your seat belt is designed to keep YOU and EVERYONE else in the car in place. The fact is, if you are thrown from the vehicle you will not land on a pillow. You will likely land on asphalt, plummet into a pole, skid across pavement or get run over by another car. How do you prevent this from happening? It’s easy—click it!

The top five things to know about buckling up:

Buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash.

From 2004 to 2008, seat belts saved more than 75,000 lives—enough people to fill a large sports arena. If you are completely thrown from a vehicle during a crash, it is almost always fatal. If you do survive, it’s gonna hurt. Buckling up keeps you safe and secure inside your vehicle and can save your life—and your face. Seat belts are the best defense against impaired, aggressive, drowsy and distracted drivers.

Air bags are designed to work with seat belts, not replace them.

Did you know that air bags open at a rate of 60 mph? If you are thrown directly into a rapidly opening air bag without any restraining help from your seat belt, the force could injure or even kill you. Seat belts are designed to work together with air bags—the seat belt secures the occupant and the air bag lessens the crash impact.Visit www.SaferCar.gov for more information on air bag safety.

Know how to buckle up properly.

The lap belt and shoulder belt are secured across the hip bones, across the chest and positioned at mid shoulder; these bones are more equipped to withstand crash forces than other parts of your body. Wearing BOTH your lap and shoulder belt is the best line of defense.
  • The head restraint should lie somewhere between the top of your ears and the top of your head.
  • Place the shoulder belt across your shoulder bone, down the middle of your chest and away from your neck.
  • Adjust the lap belt across your hips below your stomach.
  • NEVER put the shoulder belt behind your back or under your arm.

Fit matters.

  • Before you buy a new car, check to see that its seat belts are a good fit for you.
  • If you’re short, ask your dealer about seat belt adjusters, which can help you get the best fit.
    Click here for more information
  • If you need a roomier belt, contact your vehicle manufacturer to obtain a seat belt extender.
    Click here for more information.
  • If you drive an older or classic car with no seat belts or lap belts only, check with your vehicle manufacturer about how to update your car with today’s safer lap/shoulder belts.

Occupant protection is for everyone.

Click it, Utah. Every one, every trip.

For more information on teen driving safety, visit the Don't Drive Stupid website.

Air Bag Instructions

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), frontal air bags saved 25,782 lives between 1987 and 2008. However, these are supplemental safety devices and motorists should always wear a seat belt. In addition, children under 13 should ride properly protected in the back seat, as the back seat is the safest for children. If you have an air bag ON-OFF switch, check its position every time you enter your vehicle. One survey shows that 48 percent of these ON-OFF switches were incorrectly left ON for child passengers under age 13. For information on air bag safety, visit the SaferCar.gov website.

Head Restraints

Like the seat belt, head restraints are a critical part of your vehicle's safety equipment. Correct positioning of your head restraint can protect you and your passengers from whiplash injuries, a broken neck and death.

  • To minimize neck injury, NHTSA suggests placing the head restraint at a height where the center of your head is in-line with the center of the head restraint.
  • The distance from the back of the head to the restraint should be as small as possible, preferably less than four inches, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.
  • If the head restraint can be horizontal adjusted, it should be placed so that it's as close to your head as possible, without pushing your head forward or causing the height of the restraint to drop.
  • The position of your seatback is also important—less is better when it comes to reclining. A more upright seatback means that the head restraint will likely be in a safer position—one that's closer to your head.


What’s the correct fit of a seat belt for teens?

By not using the seat belt properly you can face the risk of serious injury or death. Correct placement is against the strong bones of the body—the shoulder bone and the hip bones.

The lap belt should sit two to four inches below the waist, against the hips and upper thighs. It should never sit high over the ribs and stomach because it can slice through those soft bones and tissue. If you’re short and the lap belt is fitting too high, try raising the seat (some cars have automatic or manual adjusters, typically near the bottom of the seat—see owner’s manual for instructions specific to your vehicle).

The shoulder belt should be worn snugly across the chest with the belt lying against the mid-shoulder. It should never be worn under the arm or behind the back; doing so can result in spinal injury, punctured lungs, broken ribs and/or death.

If there is a problem with proper belt fit, one way to help the shoulder belt fit better is to move closer to where the belt buckles (e.g., on the driver's side, move toward the right). Newer cars also have a seat belt adjuster on the side of the car, where the shoulder belt begins. The adjuster lessens the angle at which the belt crosses the neck, and helps ensure proper fit in many vehicles.

Note: when a seat is too-far reclined, the shoulder belt is no longer touching the shoulder bone and the seat belt can’t do its job correctly. Though it may be tempting as a passenger to recline the seat back or even sprawl vertically in the back seat and catch some zzzzs, no nap is worth the price of your life or your health. Play around with ways to nap comfortably with the seat upright and the belt properly placed.

Can I be stopped by law enforcement if I’m not wearing a seat belt?

Yes. You may be stopped and issued a citation for not wearing a seat belt if you are under age 19. Both passengers and drivers can receive tickets. If cited, the maximum fine is $45.

Instead of using a seat belt, can I just brace myself in a crash?

In a crash, your body weight is multiplied by the speed of the car. For example, if you weigh 130 pounds and crash while traveling 65 mph, your body would hit with a force of 8,450 pounds. There is no way you can brace yourself against that much force and your chances of being thrown from the car are much higher if you aren’t restrained in a seat belt.

Is my kid brother safe in a normal seat belt?

No. Seat belts are designed to fit adults and can be a danger to young children. By law, children are required to ride in an appropriate child safety seat or booster seat until they are eight years old, unless they are 4'9" or taller. As the driver, it is your responsibility to make sure children are put in a car seat or booster seat properly. Click here for guidance on child passenger safety.

Do I have to replace the seat belts in my vehicle if it was involved in a crash?

Air bags, safety belts and child restraints are generally considered "one-time use" products. After a crash they may need to be replaced. Without a doubt, air bags and pretensioners (a device some seat belt systems use for added safety) must be replaced if they are activated during a crash. Vehicle manufacturers also recommend that safety belts activated in a crash be replaced, except in minor crashes. A smart idea is to have your belt inspected by a service technician after any type of collision. For more information, contact the manufacturer of your vehicle. Seriously, though—call.

If the seat belt is uncomfortable, can I put it behind my back or under my arm?

The seat belt is designed to contact the strongest points of the body—the pelvis and the collarbone. When it is not worn properly, the user risks soft tissue damage to vital organs like the lungs, stomach, liver and even spinal cord—all of which can be quite painful and debilitating. Another risk of wearing the seat belt improperly is flying out of the vehicle because the seatbelt can no longer restrain, causing injuries, deformities and often death.

Is it safe to share one seat belt with two people?

This is a very dangerous idea as the two people can collide repeatedly at high forces in a crash or be ejected because the seat belt can no longer restrain. Each seat belt is designed for one individual. If there are not enough seat belts for the amount of people wanting to ride in the car, find another means of transportation that will allow each person to have their own seat belt. Share your ice cream sundae, not your seat belt.

How do air bags and seat belts work together?

Supplemental restraint systems like air bags work best in conjunction with a properly used lap and shoulder belt. The belt secures you in your seat and the air bag softens the impact. Without a seat belt, the air bag is going to collide with you as it deploys at 60 mph. Ouch.

When driving, sit up straight at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel for added air bag protection in the event of a crash.


MYTH: I’m strong and I could brace myself if a crash occurred.

FACT: At 35 mph, the force of impact on you and your passengers is brutal. There is no way that your arms and legs can brace yourself against that kind of collision; the speed and force are just too great. Try this math test: if you weighed 100 pounds and were going 35 mph (not very fast, right?) and crashed without a seat belt, how many pounds of pressure would it take for you to hold yourself back? Your weight (100 pounds) times the speed of the car (35 mph) = 3,500 pounds. That is the amount of pressure it would take to hold you back in a crash. That is the size of a hippopotamus. Can you lift a hippo? I think not, wise guy!

MYTH: I might be better off if I’m thrown clear from the car in a crash.

FACT: Your chances of being killed in a crash are 23 times greater if you are thrown from the car. The forces in a collision can be great enough to fling you as much as 150 feet—about 15 car lengths.

Safety belts can keep you from:

  • Plunging through the windshield.
  • Being thrown out the window and hurtled through the air.
  • Landing on asphalt, a tree or a pole.
  • Scraping along the ground or a fence.
  • Being crushed by your own car.
  • Getting ran over by other cars.
In almost any collision, you're better off being held inside the car by safety belts.

MYTH: If I wear a safety belt, I might be trapped in a burning or submerged car!

FACT: Less than one-half of one percent of all injury-producing collisions involves fire or submersion. Even if fire or submersion does occur, wearing a safety belt can protect you from the crash impact and save your life.

If you're involved in a crash without your safety belt, you might be knocked unconscious by striking the interior of the car or sustain critical injuries from being ejected. Then your chances of getting out of a burning or submerged car would be far less.

You're better off wearing a safety belt at all times in a car. With safety belts, you're more likely to be unhurt, alert and capable of escaping quickly.

MYTH: Belts are uncomfortable or inconvenient.

FACT: Initially, people may find safety belts uncomfortable, confining or inconvenient simply because they're not used to wearing them. Those people who have made wearing safety belts a habit can testify that once their use does become a habit, there is no discomfort or inconvenience. In fact, many people accustomed to wearing a seat belt have say that it is uncomfortable not wearing it and can cause anxiety when in the car without it. It can't be overemphasized that the serious discomfort and inconvenience of motor vehicle crash injury in no way compares to the discomfort or the inconvenience you may feel wearing a belt the first few times.

MYTH: Belts can hurt you in a crash.

FACT: Properly worn safety belts seldom cause injuries. If they do, the injuries are usually surface bruises and are most often less severe than if you weren’t wearing a seat belt. Without the belts, you could have likely been thrown out of the vehicle and been injured severely or killed. NHTSA reports that more than three out of four people who are ejected during a crash die from their injuries. Studies have consistently shown that injuries in most serious crashes would have been much more severe had safety belts not been worn. Sure, if you stick the seatbelt behind your back or under your arm, it can do damage. So wear it correctly! Bottom line, seat belts save lives when worn properly.

MYTH: I'm not going far and I won't be going fast.

FACT: Most crash deaths occur within 25 miles of home and at speeds of less than 40 mph. This emphasizes that everyday driving to your friend’s house, to school or to the store poses the greatest danger. Does this mean you’re off the hook when driving on a road trip to Disneyland? Uh...no. Click it, everywhere, every time.

MYTH: The chance I'll have a crash is so small; those things only happen to other people.

FACT: This is an attitude that is universal to everything we do. It's comfortable to think that car crashes only happen to other people. However, one out of three people will be seriously injured in a car crash sometime during their life. This is a very significant risk and we never know when it will occur or how it will occur. There are too many people who would say they thought the same thing—and that misconception altered their entire future. The answer: buckle up every time on every trip, regardless of distance.

MYTH: I'm a good driver, it won't happen to me.

FACT: You may be a good driver but you cannot always control the other drivers on the road. The statistics related to motor vehicle crashes and irresponsible drivers are devastating. Even if you are driving defensively, a drunk or texting driver coming around the next curve may not be. It’s tragic to think that in a crash one person could walk away from because they buckled, another could die from because they didn’t choose to simply click it. You never know what might happen. Play it safe and buckle up every time.

MYTH: Wearing a seat belt is a personal decision that doesn’t affect anyone else.

FACT: In the situation of a crash, an unbuckled passenger becomes one of the deadliest projectiles around. How dangerous? Imagine getting hit by a hippo at 60 mph. Plus, not wearing a seat belt can certainly affect your family and friends whose lives would never be the same if you were killed, brain damaged or injured in a crash.


Teenagers are especially at risk of being in a motor vehicle crash. In 2013, teenage drivers in Utah were in 10,852 motor vehicle crashes which resulted in 4,974 injured persons and 26 deaths.

Teenage drivers represented 8% of the licensed drivers in Utah, yet they were in 20% of all motor vehicle crashes.

Teenage drivers in Utah were 1.7 times more likely to be in a crash than drivers of other ages.

80% of Utah teen drivers and their passengers killed in crashes were unrestrained.

Unrestrained teen drivers and their passengers were 126 times more likely than restrained occupants to be killed in a crash in Utah. (2013 Utah Crash Summary)

Compared with other age groups, teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use. In 2013, only 55% of high school students reported they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else. (CDC)

Among teen drivers, those at especially high risk for motor vehicle crashes are:

  • Males: In 2011, the motor vehicle death rate for male drivers and passengers ages 16 to 19 was almost two times that of their female counterparts.
  • Teens driving with teen passengers: The presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen drivers. This risk increases with the number of teen passengers.
  • Newly licensed teens: Crash risk is particularly high during the first months of licensure. (CDC)

In 2012, 23% of drivers aged 15 to 20 involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes were drinking. (CDC)

Three collisions occur in a crash:

  • The first collision is the car crash.
  • The second collision is the human collision. A person in a crash, not wearing their seat belt will fly forward and hit the inside of the vehicle, such as the steering wheel, window or other object in the path of motion.
  • The third collision is the internal collision. This is where it can get ugly if you are not wearing a seat belt. In the internal collision, the occupant's internal organs move toward the point of impact and hit other organs, bones and the skull. Even though the person may appear uninjured, the liver, spleen, heart, or other organs may be torn, bruised and/or caused to bleed. Severe damage to the brain could also occur.

When a seat belt is worn properly, it is designed to spread the stopping forces across the strongest bones of the body in order to minimize damage.

Air bags provide added protection, but are not a substitute for seat belts in a crash, In fact, without a seat belt, air bags deployed in a crash can be very dangerous and/or deadly.

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