The best place to be in a car accident is usually inside a vehicle. Therefore, all modern vehicles have three-point seat belts that keep drivers in place during motor vehicle accidents. In a high-impact collision, though, your seat belt may leave a bruise across your torso.
While most bruises go away over time without medical intervention, a seat belt bruise may indicate a medical emergency. If you have a belt-shaped bruise on your chest or stomach, you should seek immediate medical care to determine if you have seat belt syndrome.
What is seat belt syndrome?
Rather than being a specific medical condition, seat belt syndrome is the common designation for a group of injuries seat belt usage may cause. If you have seat belt syndrome, you may have one or more of the following injuries:
- A large bruise
- Organ damage
- Vertebral fractures
- Rib fractures
- Spinal cord injuries
What are the symptoms of seat belt syndrome?
Because seat belt syndrome covers many injuries, there is no concise list of potential symptoms. Therefore, you must watch for symptoms of specific injuries to appear. For example, if you have a fractured rib, you may experience chest pain or difficulty breathing. A kidney injury, by contrast, may cause your skin to yellow.
How can you prevent seat belt syndrome?
You should always wear your seat belt when you drive, as seat belts save thousands of lives every single year. Still, you can decrease your chances of developing seat belt syndrome by driving responsibly. Staying alert behind the wheel, avoiding alcohol before driving, stashing your smartphone and following traffic rules may keep you out of the emergency room.