Back-seat and morning rush-hour passengers, as well as drivers of buses, vans, pick-ups and container trucks are at a higher risk of sustaining multiple and severe injuries during a traffic accident because they tend not to fasten their seatbelts, a multi-hospital study led by Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has found.

The research team analysed the data of close to 4600 patients who were involved in motor vehicle accidents and admitted to the emergency departments of five public hospitals between 2011 and 2014. Data used in this study came from the National Trauma Registry,

They found that one in five patients who suffered from severe injuries such as a serious head wound following a traffic collision, were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of their accidents.

In contrast, nine out of ten patients who sustained less serious injuries had fastened their seatbelts.

“Our findings provide us with strong evidence to drive home the message that wearing seatbelts can minimise injuries and save lives during motor vehicle accidents. We have identified the profiles of drivers and passengers who tend not to buckle up. These groups could be targeted in future road safety campaigns because they are at risk of sustaining more severe injuries,” said Dr Wong Ting Hway, Consultant, Department of General Surgery, SGH.

While close to 90% of drivers and front-seat passengers in the study wore seatbelts, more than half of back-seat passengers did not.

Casualties of accidents that occurred during the morning rush hour-between 7:00am and 9:59am- tended not to use their seatbelts, compared with victims of collisions that occurred at other times of the day. Almost one in four patients who were admitted to the emergency departments during this time did not buckle up, the study found.

The study also revealed that more than half of bus drivers did not wear seatbelts. One in ten drivers of delivery vehicles such as vans, pick-ups and container trucks involved in accidents, did not use a seatbelt. In contrast, most taxi and private car drivers buckled up.

Although seatbelt use was low among the groups identified, the overall number was encouraging, with more than 80% of the study population found to have used seatbelts. This was significantly higher than the results of similar studies in North America, Europe and the rest of Asia.

This multi-hospital study was supported by the Ministry of Health (MOH)’s National Trauma Committee.