Laws requiring drivers and passengers to wear seat belts have been around for decades. This is because your car’s seat belts are the front line defense in protecting you from injury if you are a victim of a car accident. Seat belt reminders that emit an audible alert when a driver is not buckled up are useful tools that can help increase seat belt usage rates and reduce the number of injuries and fatalities in auto accidents every year. A new study, however, shows that many seat belt reminders are not that effective. Auto manufacturers must be made aware of how beneficial this tool can be.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has developed a new rating program that aims to encourage car manufacturers to improve their seat belt reminder technologies. According to federal standards, a seat belt reminder system should emit an audible signal that lasts for a minimum of 4 to 6 seconds. In the case of a visual signal, the alert must continue for a period of at least 60 seconds. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway safety has conducted earlier research that indicates that alerts that continue for much longer can be more effective in encouraging motorists to buckle up before they begin driving. In fact, the research found that seat belt usage increases by as much as 34% when audible alerts last much longer than just 4 to 6 seconds. The research indicates that increased seatbelt usage can save as many as 1,500 lives in auto accidents every year.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, audible signals must not only be long-lasting, but must also be loud enough to allow the motorist to hear the signal. Some of the systems that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety studied as part of its research, had alerts that were barely audible above the cabin noise and other vehicle noise. In others, there was a 25 -second gap between intermittent audible signals, and this could be too long a gap to prove effective in encouraging a motorist to buckle up.