Friday 24 May 2024

Why you should always wear your seat belt on a plane

Regarding the recent Singapore Airlines incident, it's worth examining why it's important to keep your seat belt fastened while flying and disperse any myths.

Undoubtedly, seat belts save lives in both cars and planes.

Statistics confirm that seat belts are crucial for commuter safety. Given the amount of driving we do, people automatically buckle up before driving off. So why isn't the same principle applied to air travel?

A 2017 survey of 1,548 airplane passengers found that 9% "rarely" or "never" stay buckled when the seat belt sign is off. Despite the years since this survey, the sound of seat belts clicking open as soon as it's safe to move indicates that passenger behavior hasn't significantly changed.

Staying seated and buckled in on an airplane is the safest practice.

Airplanes are equipped with “lift lever” belts, which, as implied, unfasten when you lift the lever, unlike the button-push mechanism in cars. Lift lever belts predate airplanes but became standard by the 1940s due to their cost-effectiveness and light weight.

While pilots and crew may wear shoulder straps, passengers typically have only a lap belt. In cars, the primary risk is horizontal movement, but in planes, it's vertical. Lap belts are designed to secure passengers in their seats during turbulence. The simple design of the lift lever lap belt allows passengers to fasten and unfasten it quickly as needed.

A major reason people avoid wearing seat belts on planes is the belief that they're ineffective in a crash. While this might hold for catastrophic incidents, minor accidents, such as collisions on the runway, can still cause injuries. Another reason disclosed was just being uncomfortable to wear for long hours

The National Center for Atmospheric Research reports that pilots encounter moderate turbulence 65,000 times and severe turbulence 5,500 times annually. Given that plane crashes occur slightly more than 1,200 times a year and fires are even less common, turbulence is arguably the most significant risk of physical injury on a plane.

Turbulence happens when a plane goes through a sudden change in airflow, which can be caused by mountains, jet streams, or storms. Pilots utilize weather radars and meteorological maps to identify thunderstorms and hazardous winds along their route, activating the seat belt sign accordingly. However, turbulence can sometimes strike unexpectedly, known as clear-air turbulence, occurring even under clear skies.

During turbulence, it's typical for an aircraft to drop unexpectedly, which can cause unbuckled passengers to rise from their seats. In extreme cases, turbulence can forcefully propel individuals into the plane's ceiling, leading to concussions, fractures, or more severe injuries.

So, next time you are on a plane, please stay safe and were your seat belt at all times.

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