I will admit there are so many choices when it comes to racing seatbelts these days that it makes it very easy to overlook the critical factors in choosing them. Choosing a good set can be challenging, confusing, and a little intimidating. But seatbelts are important, so don't ever find yourself just settling for a set of belts. You should pay close attention to the SFI safety ratings and the age of your seatbelts.

Before we get too far into this, resist the temptation to buy your seatbelts based solely on brand. The safest set of belts for your particular application may just be from a manufacturer that you have never considered. I say that to remind you that, more than anything, seatbelts are designed to save your life. There is no reason to purchase an unsafe set of seatbelts just because they are cheaper than those from all of the other manufacturers, or because of some past grievance or bias toward a particular company.

A lot of readers might be thinking right now, What's the point of this? My seatbelts are fine. A seatbelt is a seatbelt. Let me go on the record as saying that this is very dangerous thinking. Don't have the attitude that you are invincible. The responsibility rests upon you and you alone to ensure that your car is as safe as it can be. The seatbelts you choose to run are the only equipment that will prevent you from flying out of your seat during an accident.

First, to better understand seatbelts, we need to understand their function and design. The seatbelts used in today's race cars are made up of two shoulder harnesses, a lap belt, and either one or two anti-submarine belts. These are connected by either a cam lock system or a latch and link system.

A lot of belts today are still being made out of nylon. However, within the past 10 years manufacturers have learned that nylon webbing grows weaker over time, so most manufacturers are now using better and stronger polyester webbing instead of nylon.

The reason that belts are webbed or woven is it makes the belts stronger. It makes them more unlikely to encounter a tear, become frayed, or snap. Let me be the first to say that if you snap one of these belts, you have really done something. NASCAR's latest rules say that a belt must be able to withstand 15,000 pounds of dead weight before it breaks. That's a lot of stress on the belt.

The SFI Foundation, a non-profit organization that issues and administers standards for specialty/performance automotive and racing equipment, has performed studies with nylon versus polyester belts. What they found was that polyester belts are more than 20 percent stronger than typical nylon webbing.