July 14, 2009 by Canadian Underwriter
Enhanced safety belt reminders in new vehicles has increased driver safety belt usage and reduced driver fatalities, according to a report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
In its most recent issue of Status Report, the IIHS notes that all new cars sold in the United States since 1975 have been required to display a warning light and sound an audible signal for four to eight seconds after the ignition starts if the driver belt isn’t fastened.
Over the past decade, automakers have voluntarily extended the length of the warning to longer than eight seconds. As of 2009, more than 90% of new cars have these enhanced reminders.
IIHS compared systems in Fords and Hondas and found the enhanced belt reminder system increased driver belt usage by five to six percentage points, the Status Report says.
IIHS researchers also compared 2000-07 driver fatality rates per vehicle registration per year for vehicles with and without enhanced belt reminders, it continues.
“After adjusting for age differences of the vehicles being compared, the estimated effect of enhanced belt reminders on driver fatality risk was a 2% reduction.”
Although the percentage reduction seems small, the IIHS noted that, out of the 21,647 driver deaths in the United States during 2007, only 3.442 were in vehicles with enhanced belt reminders.
“So the reduction in risk translates to about 70 fewer deaths.”