The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has introduced a suggested regulation, compelling car manufacturers to integrate seat belt usage alert systems in vehicles for both the front right passenger and rear seats. This initiative aims to enhance seat belt utilization and would be applicable to passenger cars, trucks, most buses, and multipurpose passenger vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or lower.
According to Acting Administrator Ann Carlson, wearing seat belts is highly effective in preventing injuries and fatalities during accidents. In 2021, nearly 43,000 individuals lost their lives on U.S. roads, and half of these casualties occurred among unbelted vehicle occupants. The proposed rule seeks to decrease this statistic by encouraging more individuals to buckle up.
Seat belt warning systems utilize visual and audible alerts to prompt seat belt usage. The proposed regulation aims to amend the existing Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208, which presently necessitates a seat belt warning solely for the driver’s seat, not for other seating positions. Additionally, the rule aims to update the current requirements for driver seat belt warning systems. According to NHTSA‘s estimates, these proposed changes could prevent roughly 300 non-fatal injuries and more than 100 fatalities each year.
Although seat belt usage has increased over the past decade, there remains room for improvement. The rates of seat belt usage for rear seat passengers have consistently lagged behind those for front seat occupants. For passengers in the rear seats, seat belts lower fatality risks by 55% for passenger cars and 74% for light trucks and vans. Correspondingly, for front seat occupants, seat belts reduce fatality risks by 44% for passenger cars and between 63% to 73% for light trucks and vans.
This proposed rule aims to establish a consistent standard across the industry, promoting better seat belt usage and ultimately saving lives. In 2019, NHTSA initiated a preliminary notice, seeking public input on potential requirements for rear seat belt warnings. The 45 comments received were taken into account during the development of the newly issued Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).