I have recently seen quite a few cars with bucket seats and harnesses fitted while at work. Now I agree that harnesses and bucket seats are the best things for holding you in while driving, but I have been shocked to where the seat belts have been mounted to.
Here are just a couple of examples of incorrect harness fitting:
Note both images above have the harnesses mounted to the lower rear seat belt bolts (some I have seen even have them mounted straight down to the rear legs of the front seat)
Now, the correct harness fitting should be mounted near enough parallel to your shoulders.
Here’s just a little something to think about:
If you use harness’s mounted to the rear seat mounting points in the event of a heavy frontal collision all the crash energy will be imparted downwards on your shoulders by the harness’s. There;s only one place that energy can go and that;s straight down your spine – If that happens there’s a very good chance you’ll be paralysed for life.
Id rather go through the windscreen in all honesty!
The only safe way to use harness’s is to have the rear mounts at shoulder height which is virtually impossible without a full roll cage fitted – I mean a proper cage as well not a monkey bars show cage.
Using harness’s for everyday driving is a nightmare – for them to work properly they MUST be so tight you cannot move, you will NOT be able to reach the stereo, you will NOT be able to look over your shoulder before performing manoeuvres like merging with traffic on a motorway.
If they are loose enough to allow you to do these things then they are MORE dangerous than wearing no belt at all.
In the event of a roll-over whilst wearing a normal seat belt your body can rotate towards the centre of the car keeping your head out the way of the roof line in case it collapses. If you are wearing harness’s then I’m afraid your head is stuck there and without a cage and a helmet you’re going to know about it. Again I know where I’d rather be!
Here’s the correct way harnesses should be mounted
For most cars now days, you can get what is known as a harness bar, which will keep the harnesses parallel with your shoulders (as they should).
Harnesses are great for racing or serious track / off road use, where in conjunction with a multi point roll cage, well fitting fixed back seat and of course a helmet your pretty much as safe as it’s possible to get given the nature of the activity (even the HANS device previously the stuff of F1 is becoming a common sight now the HANS sport kit as brought the price down), So with all this kit you are now as safe as poss, on the track yes, on the road not necessarily, before we consider the interaction between the various pieces of hardware lets consider is the type of accident your likely to be involved in, on a track your likely to hit a tyre wall, pit lane wall, another car, roll in the gravel trap etc in all cases a well designed and built race car will offer the best protection.
The highways and byways of this fine country are a completely different thing, firstly you have incoming traffic, junctions, roundabouts, trucks, buses, taxis, harassed mums with cars full of kids, drivers on their phone, drivers in a rush, basically every possible situation that can occur will occur to someone at some point, you’d think that a race prepared car would be much safer than a normal road car but I’d argue that all the race derived equipment is more likely to increase risk of injury and death than decrease it.
Firstly you won’t be wearing a helmet on the road so the risk of hitting your head on the roll structure is very real, harnesses are designed to be worn tight so limit your ability to move around, to look and observe the road therefore increasing your chances of been involved in a accident due to poor observation, they also eliminate ‘wriggle room’ with a conventional seat belt it’s possible to contort into a space that a tight harness simply would not allow.
Modern cars are designed to a very high safety standard; I even read a press release from Volvo stating their aim that by 2020 ALL accidents involving Volvo cars would be survivable, that’s quite an objective and the fact they think it’s even possible says a lot about how safe modern cars are.
So whatever your reasons for fitting harnesses please consider all the implications, and if you do fit some fit them properly this definitely means loosing the rear seats to allow correct positioning of the mountings, as for using harness bars and retaining the rear seats consider the impact (literally) on the rear passengers.
Some accidents simply aren’t survivable no matter what, but I firmly believe that in most circumstances (there are no absolutes here) that the standard safety equipment offers the best solution for road going cars.
Just something to think about when thinking about harnesses in a road going car, and how harness fitting should be completed safely ;)