U.S. vehicle safety regulators are taking steps to improve seat belt reminder systems to combat the escalating trend in traffic-related fatalities and injuries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) presents a new warning system to increase driver alerts while expanding its reach to front and rear-seat passengers. The plan is to include most buses, trucks, and passenger cars.
Currently, only the driver’s seat is required to have seat belt warning systems, which use visual and audible signals to promote belt use. Expanded notifications and longer alert durations would be necessary under the NHTSA’s proposed regulations. More than 100 traffic-related fatalities and about 300 non-fatal injuries are anticipated to be avoided annually due to these measures.
The project was launched in response to increased fatalities from automobile accidents during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to acting NHTSA administrator Ann Carlson, nearly half of the 43,000 people killed in car accidents in 2021 were not using seat belts. She claimed that her suggested regulation might greatly reduce this number.
The NHTSA proposal states that visual alerts that appear as soon as a vehicle starts up and advise the driver whether or not the rear seat belt is fastened must last for at least a minute. Furthermore, an audio-visual alert shall be displayed for at least 30 seconds if a rear seatbelt is left unbuckled while the car moves.
These times go well beyond the eight seconds required for driver seat belt warnings. To guarantee effectiveness and driver acceptance, vehicle manufacturers will have some latitude in modifying the nature of these warning signals. The final rule requiring rear seat belt reminders would give auto manufacturers at least two years to comply.