NHTSA Considering Incentive to Induce Automakers to Install Seatbelt Interlock Devices
While seatbelt use by vehicle occupants reached 86 percent in 2012, drivers who did not buckle up still accounted for more than half of all fatalities involving motor vehicle occupants according to the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. When one considers that 52 percent of those who die in traffic accidents are not wearing seatbelts despite the fact that the percentage of unbuckled occupants is relatively small, the effectiveness of seatbelts in preventing severe injury and wrongful death becomes apparent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is now considering a change that could result in virtually all vehicle occupants (at least in the front seat) using a seatbelt when traveling the roadways of Atlanta and the surrounding areas of Georgia.
While automakers are now required to conduct crash tests involving drivers that do not use their lap and shoulder belts, this requirement may soon be waived if vehicle manufacturers implement mandatory seatbelt interlock devices. Because automakers could avoid the cost of the crash testing, the change would encourage car companies to use devices that limit the ability to operate a vehicle unless the seatbelt is engaged.
While the auto industry equipped vehicles with seatbelt interlock devices almost forty years ago, the attempt was abandoned when consumers complained about the inconvenience of being forced to buckle up. Because every state but one now has mandatory seatbelt laws and overall usage rates are extremely high, there is a sense that seatbelt interlock devices might not receive the same level of resistance by consumers.
The NHTSA is considering the rule change in response to a request by BMW® that certain crash tests be waived if seatbelt interlocks are installed in the front seats of vehicles. In the request submitted by BMW®, the automaker indicates that the change would generate a number of benefits that include:
- Hundreds of additional lives saved annually because of higher seatbelt usage rates
- Creation of lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles
- More spacious passenger areas by eliminating the need for knee bolsters
BMW has suggested three separate forms of interlock device that are presumably being considered by federal regulators. The most effective form of interlock would prevent the engine of a vehicle from starting unless the vehicle occupant was wearing a seatbelt. A similar form of interlock would prevent the driver from shifting the vehicle into drive or reverse if the seatbelt is not engaged. The least intrusive but also least effective interlock approach would allow the vehicle to be driven without buckling up but only at low rates of speed. BMW has suggested that consumers might find this third form of interlock less objectionable because it allows someone to run down the street or to drive short distances around one’s home without a seatbelt.
While it is unclear whether the NHTSA will decide to grant a waiver of some crash tests to promote the use of an interlock device, this proposed change could prevent many horrific injuries and deaths caused by vehicle ejections and rollovers. If you have been injured in a car accident or a loved one has died in a collision, our Georgia car accident attorneys at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to those throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.
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