My wife recently attended a first aid course but the instructor also spoke about potential health risks when seated in a motor vehicle fitted with a rear middle lap-only seatbelt.
Past stories of passengers suffering severe internal injuries and even some being ejected out of their seats completely as a result of a major frontal impact accident were recalled.
So on arrival home the discussion centred on whether the instructor's comments were an overreaction or whether there was any truth in what was said.
The main issue with the lap-only seatbelt design is it can sometimes act as a hinge position when momentum is propelling the body in a forward direction and the vehicle has come to an abrupt and sudden halt such as what happens in a severe frontal impact accident.
There is nothing to hold the upper torso, shoulders and neck area back into the seat on impact, so the body moves forwards and is held by the lap belt around the passenger's pelvic area only.
Depending on vehicle speed and the severity of the impact, the amount of load applied to the pelvic and spinal points plus the internal organs can be severe and cause major injury.
The other part of the human body at massive risk is the unrestrained head and neck area especially if they happen to come in contact with some very hard and unforgiving interior surface.
So it's true, there have been some serious injuries caused by the lap belt in motor vehicle accidents.
But the law states that if it's the only restraint offered then it must be worn as it's better than wearing no belt at all. And we mustn't forget if some of those people injured had not been wearing any restraint at all, the end result may have been a lot worse.
The adjustment of a lap belt is very important. They should be tight and worn low across the bone of the pelvis.
For young children under 7 the rules are very clear: the driver must ensure they are restrained by an approved child restraint that is appropriate for the age and size of the child. They must not travel in a car otherwise.
If all seating positions are going to be filled on a regular basis, it is better to avoid buying or travelling long distances in a vehicle with a lap-only centre rear belt.
I say long distances because that usually means travelling at highway speeds which increases the risk whereas travelling around busy inner city streets at much slower speeds does lessen the chances of injury.
But finding a suitable vehicle within one's budget may be a lot harder than it sounds, as there are still a number of late model vehicles currently on our roads that do not have the full three-point lap and diagonal seatbelt in every rear seating position.
But it's definitely worth the effort and consideration if you're looking to update the family vehicle and you have three young or teenage children or the centre seat is regularly occupied by one of the grandies on day trips. For some other motorists, the rear seats are seldom ever used let alone the centre pew, so the type of seatbelt installed is not such a big issue.
Seatbelt configuration is a safety feature easily overlooked when buying, as are child restraint mounting points. Adding them to your check list along with curtain airbags and Electronic Stability Control will go a long way to ensuring all occupants are well protected.
But we should never forget buying the safest vehicle doesn't make us bullet proof. If you are considering updating your vehicle it's always a good idea to sit down and draw up a list of must-have features and refer to it when you are checking out any possible suitable options.