Many of you remember the rip stitch seatbelt designs of a few years back that purposely allowed slack to be placed into the belt system when the belt was loaded. Those seatbelts resulted in numerous unnecessary injuries and deaths when the belts became too loose to protect the occupants. Those designs are no longer in use, but another design with the same effect is being used in many vehicles on the road today. That design is the torsion bar load limiter retractor.
A torsion bar is a device designed to purposely allow a section of the belt to spool out of the seat belt retractor in a frontal collision when the belt exhibits pressure of around 600-800 lbs. Automobile manufacturers allegedly include the torsion bar to improve chest g’s [the forces the chest sees from the belt in an accident] for safety. It does so by spooling the shoulder belt webbing several inches when the pressure reaches 600-800 lbs.
The problem is that chest g’s aren’t really causing problems in the real world. Car manufacturers never had a problem passing the federal guidelines for chest pressure even before the inclusion of this component. They didn’t even have a problem before airbags, and airbags improved the issue. So why are the car manufacturers putting torsion bars in vehicles? The real reason is marketing to sell more cars. The auto manufacturers can get better test scores on the New Car Assessment Program during their frontal crash tests by including this device. These better scores result in more stars for safety.
The problem with the torsion bar arises when those seatbelts are involved in rollover crashes. Rollovers, unfortunately, aren’t tested in the safety rating testing. The actuation of the torsion device during a rollover allows too much slack in the belt system. The occupant is allowed to be thrown about the vehicle without the benefit of a tight belt.
Correcting this problem would be easy by simply raising the deployment of the torsion bar to 900-1200 lbs. This would allow the real world safety of chest g’s to be lowered without the problem we are seeing in rollovers. They won’t likely do this without pressure because it won’t benefit their beloved safety ratings. We call for safety that protects people in the real world instead gimmicks to make some numbers look better. If you have further questions about this topic, please contact Chris Glover in our firm at 800-898-2034 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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