In response to a petition for rulemaking submitted by Public Citizen and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is requesting public comments regarding a request to amend the Federal motor vehicle safety standards and require automotive manufactures to install rear passenger seat belt reminder systems.
According to NHTSA, vehicle-based technologies, such as the driver-only seat belt reminder systems (SBRS) currently mandated by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208, along with various behavioral programs, have helped increase overall seat belt use to 73 percent, saving more than 75,000 lives, over the last several years. Further, NHTSA estimates that rear seat belts in particular reduce the risk of fatal injury to rear seat occupants of passenger vehicles by 44 percent.
SBRS have historical roots dating back many decades. Although recent statistics and trends are seemingly in step with NHTSA’s objectives, this wasn’t always so. For example, some may recall the often-maligned seat belt ignition interlock systems, mandated in the early ‘70’s, which required drivers to “buckle up” before the engine starter could be engaged. Consumers objected almost immediately and reports of system disablement were common. In fact, public response was so negative that NHTSA subsequently rescinded the regulation. So, to avoid similar reaction, NHTSA is seeking information, comments, and research data regarding rear SBRS efficacy, costs, and consumer acceptance, before implementing any new changes.