Seat belt warning systems in vehicles are intentionally annoying. They’re specifically designed to pester drivers until they buckle up. And with good reason, since seat belts greatly improve passengers’ chances of surviving and avoiding serious injury in the event of an accident.
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According to the CDC, the risk of death for drivers and front-seat passengers is cut in half when they wear seat belts. Despite the safety feature’s prevalence, many passengers still don’t use them. In 2021, 43,000 people died in auto accidents and, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, half of them weren’t buckled up.
That’s why the NHTSA is proposing new rules that would require automotive manufacturers to extend seat belt warning systems throughout the vehicle’s cabin. Right now, the rules only require a warning for the driver’s seat. The proposed changes would require warnings for the front and rear passenger seat belts as well, and it would apply to passenger cars, trucks, most buses, and multipurpose passenger vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less.
The rules would mean automakers would need to begin offering audio-visual alerts if front and/or rear passengers aren’t using seat belts after a vehicle is started. They would also need to provide alerts if rear passengers unbuckle while the vehicle is in operation.
For drivers, it would mean a lot more dings and flashing lights. But that extra annoyance would likely be worth it. The NHTSA estimates that the proposed requirements would prevent approximately 300 non-fatal injuries and over 100 fatalities annually.