Nothing Comforting About the Comfort Latch
It’s not my place to tell anyone, least of all a professional driver, what to do behind the wheel. After all, it’s your choice, right?
When it comes to seat belts, like many of you, I’ve grown up with the current legislation. It has been law in Ontario for over 36 years, and buckling up before a trip is now automatic for me. We all know that seat belts save lives. More lives than air bags, crumple zones, or any other type of safety related technology that you’re likely to find in today’s vehicles. Fact is, by wearing one, in the event of a collision you have a 92 percent chance of surviving.
Not only that, but there are other implications. If you’re stopped by the police in Ontario while not wearing your belt, you’re liable to be fined $240 and receive 2 demerit points to decorate your licence with. Not good.
The majority of today’s professional drivers all realize this and wear their belts as a matter of course. However, there is this small innocuous looking piece of yellow plastic, fitted to most class 8 tractors, that is threatening all who choose to use it.
It is the so called ‘comfort latch’. Unfortunately, many of you are unwittingly breaking the law and risking injury every time you lock it in position. All for the sake of a little ‘comfort’.
Ever since I first set eyes on it I took an instant dislike to it. And that’s not like me. I normally give everything or everyone a chance but not the comfort latch. The second that I knew it’s purpose, alarm bells started ringing.
If you have a comfort latch in your truck I urge you to rip it out. If you can’t rip it out, grab your pin puller and render it useless. Now.
And why would you want to do this solely on my say so? I’ll tell you why:
Seat belts have evolved from the simple lap belt into today’s combination pelvic and torso restraint system for a reason. This wasn’t by accident or so that belt manufacturers could charge more for their product; no, it happened so that you, the driver, would remain safely restrained in your seat should you hit something.
By using the comfort latch, the slack that you ‘lock in’ to your belt will enable you to move forward within your fastened seat belt. Should you have a collision, you’ll hit the webbing at speed and you could end up with some nasty bruises across your chest. Depending on the force of the collision, it could quite possibly fracture a bone or two.
You should also consider the airbag. These have an explosive charge that activates them in a split second when a vehicle receives a sudden impact. They have been carefully designed and rigorously tested to offer maximum protection to a fully restrained driver. By using the comfort latch, you're now just that little bit closer to the air bag when this charge goes off, putting you at greater risk of injury from not only the charge, but also from an under inflated air bag and the steering wheel.
You haven’t had a collision for twenty years? Great. You’re probably not worried about using the comfort latch, as you enjoy the extra freedom that it gives you inside the cab. Just beware if you ever get stopped by the police. When you get out of your truck, if your belt is hanging down, locked in position by the comfort latch, you may be about to receive a ticket.
A well-informed police officer will know that you are breaking the law according to the Highway Traffic Act.
If you take a look at the Highway Traffic Act, regulation 106, and read subsection (5) you’ll see why. It says:
(5) How to wear a seat belt assembly ---- A seat belt assembly shall be worn so that,
(a) The pelvic restraint is worn firmly against the body and across the hips
(b) The torso restraint, if there is one, is worn closely against the body and over the shoulder and across the chest.
Those two underlined words in (a) and (b) mean that every driver who uses the comfort latch is breaking the law, due to the slack locked in to the belt which prevents it from fitting closely against the body.
As I said earlier, it’s not my place to tell anyone what to do behind the wheel, but the thought of people getting needlessly fined or injured because of one, small, apparently harmless, piece of yellow plastic really worries me.
So do yourself a favour, reach behind your seat, grab your pin puller, and set to work.