Q: My 17-year-old son refuses to wear a seat belt when he riding in the back seat of our car. He says because the rear belt doesn't have a shoulder strap, it's more dangerous to wear it than not. Is he right?
A: Definitely not! We are sometimes amazed at how myths abouinjuries from seat belts continue to travel the rumor circuit.
Unbelted, a rear seat passenger is at substantial risk fosuffering a serious head injury is a a car accident. The body's inertia will carry it forward into the front seat or perhaps to the --board or front window. A lap belt will prevent this from happening. Your son is probably thinking about injuries to the abdomen. But if he wears the belt properly buckled across the pelvis, this risk isvirtually zero.
Many car dealers now offer to install shoulder belts in cars that do not have them in the rear seats. While the cost may run to several hundred dollars, you can view it as an investment in the health of your family or as an extra insurance policy.
Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.