Wearing a seat belt reduces people's risk of life-threatening liver damage by more than 20 percent, new research suggests.
Among people involved in car crashes, seat-belt wearers are 21 percent less likely to suffer severe liver injuries, which rises to 26 percent when combined with an airbag, a study found.
The liver is one of the most commonly injured organs during motor-vehicle collisions, with severe damage killing around 15 percent of sufferers, the research adds.
Lead author Audrey Renson, from the NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn, said: 'It has been known for some time that seat belt use is associated with lower mortality in a car crash.
'Although some may consider this common sense, there is still some controversy lingering around seat belts possibly being harmful and that having an airbag means you don’t have to wear a seat belt.'
The researchers believe their findings reinforce the importance of seat belts.
Motor-vehicle crashes cause around two million emergency-room visits and tens of thousands of deaths every year in the US.
Wearing a seat belt reduces people's risk of life-threatening liver damage by over 20% (stock)
Airbags alone do not prevent liver damage
Dr Eileen Metzger Bulger, chair of the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma, who was not involved in the study, said the liver and spleen are the most commonly injured organs after motor-vehicle crashes.
She added: 'Both can cause severe bleeding, but the spleen can be removed if needed during surgery, which controls the bleeding.
'The liver (however) is critical for life and cannot be removed.'