Redesigning car seat belts to cut injuries, especially for seniors

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WPVI) -- Medical experts are taking a fresh look at car seat belts.

They save lives in accidents, but for some people they can also cause injuries.

So they may need some changes.

"It usually goes across here, but by the time I get done driving, it's up closer here, and I just pull it down each time," says Helen Kessler..

She's in her 70s, and says she still feels confident about her skills.

Since they were introduced, seat belts have been designed for the 'average' driver - a 40-year-old man about 5 feet, 8 inches tall.

But they don't fit everyone, especially seniors, who may be smaller.

Elders are almost more fragile, so doctors say they commonly see injuries along the seat belt line - the collar bone, ribs, and pelvis, even in minor crashes.

Biomedical engineers at Ohio State University are now working with automakers, studying the force of seat belts and airbags with the elderly.

"If we could come up with that, you could then know how to tweak each individual system for each individual," says John Bolte, Ph.D., of the Ohio State University College of Medicine.

The re-designed belts will take a few years to get into the pipeline.

The engineers hope some day they'll have car key fobs which will be able to adjust seat belts to a driver's age and size.

So we can have more personalized seat belts.
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