Seatbelt reminder strengthening proposed by NHTSA

A proposal by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to upgrade requirements for seat belt reminders is a welcome step forward, according to David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“Strong seat belt reminders are an important component of the Safe System approach to transportation, and we welcome NHTSA’s proposed upgrade to the standard,” Harkey said. “The small minority of drivers and passengers who fail to use this basic piece of safety equipment account for nearly half of crash fatalities, and our research has shown that if all vehicles had persistent reminders to buckle up, it would save about 1,500 lives a year.”

Current regulations specify that seat belt reminders must include an audible signal that lasts from 4 to 8 seconds total and a visual alert that lasts at least 60 seconds whenever the driver’s seat belt is unbuckled. Such short reminders are easy to ignore. Even though NYS law requires everyone in a vehicle to be belted, whether in front or rear seats, there is no belt reminder requirement for passengers.

“NHTSA’s proposed requirements for front and rear reminders are in many ways consistent with our own criteria for a good rating. We would like to see the agency add volume and fundamental frequency requirements to make sure auditory reminders are easy to hear above other noise in the vehicle,” Harkey said. “We also think NHTSA’s proposed implementation delays of at least one year for the front seat and two years for rear seats are unnecessary. Manufacturers have already shown they can make these improvements quickly in response to our ratings.”

Harkey’s comments make sense. Studies have shown that longer and louder reminders are effective. If better reminders are effective in achieving compliance, then let’s mandate better reminders.

Seatbelt compliance in NYS and in the nation is around 90 percent. When statistics show that half of crash fatalities failed to use their seatbelts, it shows that an unbelted person is five times more likely to die in a crash than someone being properly belted.

Statistics from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation indicate that chances of surviving an impact are greater if a vehicle occupant remains in the vehicle. Here’s the proof:

¯ Only 1% of occupants using seatbelts were ejected from their vehicle.

¯ 18% of occupants not wearing seatbelts were ejected.

¯ 74% of occupants totally ejected died!

With statistics like this, why would anyone not wear a seatbelt?


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