You’re probably quite familiar with the chiming sound that echoes from your dashboard if you don’t put on your seat belt immediately after starting your car. Pretty soon the friendly reminders may pop up for back seat passengers who fail to buckle up, too.
Congress recently passed a law that would require a “safety belt use warning system for designated seating positions in the rear seat.” According to a spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, details are still being worked out and potential systems are still being tested.
Still, many think the law is a long time coming. Some reminders about buckling up in the front seat have been around since the 1970s. It seems to make a difference: According to a poll by the NHTSA in 2009, 83 percent of front seat occupants wear their seat belts. That compares to only 74 percent of people in the back seat.
And a government study from 2007 found that enhanced seat belt reminders improved seat belt use by nearly 4 percent. Another more recent study concluded that vehicles equipped with such warnings saw a 6 percent lower fatality rate for drivers.
The new law may protect more than back seat passengers. While failing to wear a seat belt is obviously dangerous for back seat occupants, it can be deadly for everyone else in the car, too. Unbuckled passengers often act as projectiles in serious-impact crashes. In fact, buckled passengers see a 40 percent increased risk of injury or death if there are unbelted passengers riding in the car.
Source: Washington Post, “Seat belt reminders could come to back seat,” Aug. 2, 2012
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