NHTSA Proposes Seat Belt Warning System Mandate

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently issued a proposed rule that would require manufacturers to equip passenger cars, trucks, most buses, and multipurpose passenger vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less with seat belt use warning systems for the right front passenger and rear seats in an effort to increase seat belt use.

[Above image via NHTSA]

NHTSA noted in a statement that its proposed rule would amend Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 “Occupant Crash Protection,” which currently requires a seat belt warning for the driver’s seat but does not require a warning for other seating positions. The proposed rule would also update current driver seat belt warning system requirements.

The agency said its proposed rule would require a visual warning upon vehicle ignition lasting at least 60 seconds to notify the driver of the status of the rear seat belts as well as an audio-visual “change-of-status” warning lasting at least 30 seconds if a rear seat belt is unbuckled while the vehicle is in operation. 

For front passenger seats, NHTSA’s proposed rule would require an audio-visual seat belt use warning for the driver and right front passenger seat that remains active until both the driver and right front passenger seat occupants are belted and an audio-visual change-of-status warning for both the driver and right front passenger seats that remains active until the unfastened seat belt is refastened. 

Manufacturers would have the flexibility to adjust warning signal characteristics – such as frequency and volume – to make the warning both effective and acceptable to vehicle owners, the agency said.

NHTSA estimates that the proposed requirements would prevent approximately 300 non-fatal injuries and over 100 fatalities annually. The agency added that, for rear seat occupants, its data indicates seat belt use reduce the risk of fatality by 55 percent in passenger cars and by 74 percent in light trucks and vans. For front seat occupants, NHTSA said seat belts reduce the risk of fatality by 44 percent for passenger cars and by 63 percent to 73 percent for light trucks and vans.

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