Most airline passengers comply with the rule that you have to wear your seatbelt during takeoffs and landings.
It is easy to feel their importance when you are thrown back into your seat during takeoff or as the plane jitters on the runway during a landing.
But for many travelers, the moment the pilot announces they have reached cruising altitude and the seatbelt sign turns off, off go those belts.
Those requests during the safety announcements to keep seatbelts on during the entire flight – even when the signs are not illuminated- seem to go in one ear and out the other.
Some passengers might not see the point of wearing a seatbelt on a plane. After all, if the thing crashes, a seatbelt is not going to do you much good, right?
Maybe. But there are plenty of things that can happen during a flight during which seatbelts can prevent injury or even death.
And while the flight crew will illuminate the fasten seatbelt sign when they have hit choppy weather or are having mechanical problems, sometimes events can happen without warning, which is why it is important to wear the belt during the entire flight.
The Importance of Seatbelts in Action
In July 2010, a United flight flying from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles encountered severe turbulence over Kansas forcing an emergency landing in Denver, according to a Washington Post article.
Twenty-five people, including four crewmembers, were injured during the incident, including one woman who left a crack in the cabin when she was jolted out of her seat. A hospital in Denver treated seven people from the flight.
It is not known if those injured were wearing seatbelts, but at least one passenger who was wearing a seatbelt reported being sore.
And just last week, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau reminded air travelers about the importance of wearing their seatbelts during flights, The Financial reported.
The agency issued the reminder in the wake of releasing a report about a 2008 incident on a Qantas flight between Singapore and Perth, in which the plane suddenly pitched downward, injuring at least 110 of the 303 passengers and nine of the 12 crewmembers onboard. In this incident, problems with the flight control computers were to blame.
A blogger on Dinesh.com shared how her father survived an Indian Airlines crash that killed 100 of the 130 people onboard because he was wearing his seatbelt. The plane had crashed into a swamp as it was approaching the runway and then caught fire.
In a 2009 article on Elliott.org, FAA official Laura Brown was asked why it is important for passengers to wear seatbelts on flights. Her response:
“An airplane seatbelt is a passengers’ best protection against any sudden or unexpected airplane movements. Turbulence can occur unexpectedly and can even occur when the sky appears to be clear. Turbulence is a bumpy ride that can cause passengers who are not wearing their seatbelts to be thrown from their seats without warning. In nonfatal accidents, in-flight turbulence is the leading cause of injuries to both airline passengers and flight attendants. Each year, approximately 58 people in the United States are injured by turbulence while not wearing their seatbelts.”
She added that between 1980 and June 2004 there were 198 turbulence accidents on U.S. carriers that resulted in 266 injuries and three fatalities – and for two of those fatalities, the passengers were not wearing a seatbelt when the seatbelt sign was illuminated.
For passengers who refuse to wear seatbelts when the sign is illuminated and who are disruptive to the crew, the FAA can impose a maximum fine of $25,000.