Passenger Seatbelt Use Warnings To Be Required By NHTSA in All New Vehicles
Federal traffic safety regulators have introduced new rules, which would require auto makers to include seat belt warning lights and sounds for both front-seat and rear-seat passengers mandatory in nearly all new U.S. vehicles, which is expected to greatly reduce the risk of severe injuries and deaths during auto accidents.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Department of Transportation proposed the new passenger seat belt warning rule (PDF) on August 21, which would expand the current requirements for driver seat belt warnings to include both front and back seat passengers.
Officials expect that the new rules could save more than 100 lives every year, by greatly increasing the use of seat belts among all passengers.
“Wearing a seat belt is one of the most effective ways to prevent injury and death in a crash,” NHTSA Acting Administrator Ann Carlson said in a press release. “In 2021, almost 43,000 people lost their lives on America’s roads, and half of those in vehicles were unbelted. This proposed rule can help reduce that number by getting more to buckle up.”
Proposed Safety Belt Warning Requirements
The proposed rule requires visual warnings in vehicles to alert the driver when a passenger in the backseat is not wearing a seat belt. It would also require a 30-second audio-visual warning if a backseat belt is unbuckled while the vehicle is in operation.
Additionally, the rule would require audio-visual warnings for front passenger seat belt use, audio-visual warnings until both the front driver and passenger buckle their seat belts, and audio-visual warnings that remain active until the front driver and front passenger buckle their seat belts.
The proposed rule would apply to passenger cars, trucks, most buses, and multipurpose passenger vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less.
While many new cars already include seat belt warning signals for driver seats and some include warning systems for front passengers, the ruling would make the warning systems mandatory for both front and rear passengers for all vehicle manufacturers. However, manufacturers will have the ability to modify the frequency of the warning lights or the volume of the warning sounds.
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Lack of Seat Belt Use Strongly Linked to Auto Injuries
An NHTSA study indicates that more than 10,500 people who were not wearing seat belts were killed in car accidents in 2016 alone, and many of those lives could have been saved if they were wearing seat belts.
According to recent NHTSA data, 60% of pickup truck drivers and 64% of pickup truck passengers killed in crashes in 2021 were not wearing seat belts. For SUV drivers, 49% were not seat belted, and for passenger cars, 47% were not seat belted.
The new passenger seat belt warning rules were formulated from feedback received from comments on a 2019 NHTSA proposed rulemaking. The NHTSA will accept comments on this proposed new rule for 60 days.
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