Volume 50, Issue 1 (January 2005)
Neck Injuries Caused by Automatic Two-point Seat Belts: An Analysis of Four Cases
Although seat belts significantly reduce the extent and severity of injuries sustained by motor vehicle occupants, seat belts are known to be associated with chest and abdominal trauma. Less commonly understood are severe neck injuries caused by the use of two-point automatic shoulder harnesses without concurrent use of a manual lap belt. Such injuries may include cervical spine fractures, craniocervical dislocations and rarely decapitation. Recognizing patterned injuries caused by seat belts and the ability to correlate autopsy findings with the circumstances surrounding the death will allow for correct interpretation of seat-belt related trauma. The four cases described detail fatal neck injuries as a result of improper seat belt use in which an automatic two-point shoulder harness was used without a manual lap restraint. In two of the cases, the victims were decapitated.