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Motor Vehicle Occupants, Neck Injuries, and Seat Belt Utilization: A 5-Year Study of Fatalities in New York City

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Despite the implementation of numerous safety devices in automobiles, vehicular occupant fatalities following collisions remain common. We reviewed all fatalities of vehicular occupants in New York City over a 5-year period on whom autopsies were performed (437) to determine the incidence of neck injuries and correlate them with seat belt utilization; 26.5% had neck injuries (mild to severe) and only 10.3% of these occupants were confirmed to be wearing seatbelts. Of those that had documentation of seat belt utilization there were twice as many neck injuries in the unbelted group. We highlight two cases of submarining with severe neck injuries that were related to automatic 2-point shoulder harness restraints without engagement of the lap belt.
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Keywords: airway injuries; cervical trauma; forensic science; motor vehicle accident; neck injuries; seat belt injuries; submarine effect

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner, New York, NY 10016. 2: Department of Forensic Medicine, New York University, School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016.

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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