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Seat Belt Safety: It's Not One Size Fits All

Pam Sohn ended up in a neck brace after a jeep backed into her car.

"I remember sitting there and my body was flipping back and forth," she tells CBS News Correspondent Kris Van Cleave.    

Her seat belt kept her in the seat, but researchers believe it may have contributed to her concussion and back injuries.

"I probably would've went through the window or something the way i was moving around had I not had it on yeah, but it didn't do what i thought it would."

The seat belt Pam and the rest of us use, wasn't designed for the 60 year-old's 5'4 frame.

Professor John Bolte of Ohio State University would like to see that change.

Bolte is using crash tests to study the amount of force needed to protect those with more fragile frames, such as smaller and older drivers.

The goal is to have seat belts that one day automatically adjust to the person they're protecting.

"It's going to take a lot more force to stop me from going into the steering wheel than it would a grandfather or grandmother," explained Bolte. "So that force against my thorax is not going to cause a rib fracture in me, potentially, but it is perhaps too much force for someone that is a little older." 

Crash tests show how seat belts save lives.

But when it comes to older drivers in particular, seat belts are also blamed for a higher rate of potentially serious, even deadly, chest injuries as  older drivers tend to be more easily injured in a crash.

Seat belts are credited with saving near 14,000 lives last year.

Researchers say everyone should wear their seat belt regardless of age or size.

But also make sure the seat belt rests on your shoulder. This area is much stronger than your ribs and have 10 to 12 inches between you and the air bag.

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