Are auto manufacturers falling short in seatbelt warnings?

On Behalf of | Aug 28, 2023 | Consumer Interest

Countless campaigns from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other entities have encouraged motor vehicle drivers and their passengers to buckle up. While a vast majority of drivers and passengers use restraints, a minority still ignore potentially life-saving devices.

A new proposal comes after the COVID-19 pandemic saw national traffic fatality rates increase at a dramatic pace in 2021, with 43,000 deaths. Those not wearing seatbelts accounted for one-half of the fatalities.

One year ago, The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) published ratings of the systems. Many automakers responded by voluntarily implementing their own improvements, with two-thirds of motor vehicles receiving “good” ratings.

Potentially life-saving proposals

The NHTSA recently pitched continuing upgrades in the requirements for audible seat belt reminders to get the remaining non-users on board and buckled up. They estimate that efforts would save approximately 1,500 lives annually.

Currently, audible signals last for up to eight seconds, with visual alerts running for at least 60 seconds when drivers are unbuckled. However, alerts are short and easy to ignore. Passengers traveling in backseats do not receive such auditory warnings.

System changes

New rules would extend to front- and rear-seat passengers in cars, trucks, and buses weighing 10,000 pounds or less. In addition, drivers will hear expanded warnings for not clicking their seat belts.

The initiative started more than a decade ago when Congress requested that the agency look at possible mandates for rear passengers. The proposed mandate is scheduled to be finalized in a year.

Current estimates see the proposed requirements that increase current warning durations, preventing more than 100 traffic deaths and 300 non-fatal injuries annually.

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