A recent LiveScience article explaining how to survive a plane crash included the point that, “Some passengers are in such a state of panic that they can’t unbuckle their seat belts: NTSB reports have found that many crash victims are found in their seats with their seat belts still buckled.”
That should not be taken as an argument that seatbelts can somehow hinder an evacuation.
We asked Kevin Hiatt, the CEO of the non-profit Flight Safety Foundation if not wearing a seatbelt could allow passengers to get off a plane more quickly after a crash, and avoid potentially getting stuck.
“There’s absolutely no validity to that whatsoever,” he said.
In a landing as rough as Asiana 214’s (the plane hit the ground at 122 mph and its tail broke 0ff), “you would potentially be thrown out of your seat,” and could hit another passenger or a bulkhead, he explained. It’s better to be in your seat and have to deal with unbuckling, than to find yourself flying through the air.
“To not have that seatbelt on is really a false way of thinking about trying to protect yourself.”
Hiatt also mentioned the importance of wearing the belt in the event of turbulence, a point echoed by Laura Brown, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs at the Federal Aviation Administration.
Every year, about 58 people in the U.S. are injured by turbulence while not wearing seatbelts, she said in an email. Between 1980 and 2008, three people died during turbulence accidents. At least two of those three were not wearing their seatbelts, even though the seatbelt sign was illuminated.
A final piece of evidence: In May, a Singapore Airlines jet hit intense turbulence while breakfast was being served, dropping 65 feet and injuring 12 people. Photos from the aftermath show coffee and cornflakes on the ceiling. If your cup of coffee can fly into the air, so can you. So buckle up, and stay in your seat.
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