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Rear seat belt mandate aims to prevent crash deaths

When two cars collide, especially if they are traveling at high speeds, just about everything in the vehicles becomes airborne. Unfortunately, that includes people, and it means that passengers who are not wearing seat belts then become a danger not only to themselves but to the other people in the car.

So in an effort to decrease this risk, federal lawmakers have instituted a new regulation which will require automakers to install seat belt reminders for rear seats. Currently, such warnings are required for driver's seats, and about 75 percent of new vehicles also include them for front passenger seats. According to a recent study, driver fatality rates were about 6 percent lower in vehicles with seat belt reminders than those without, so it is likely that mandating such reminders for rear seat belts will have a similar effect.

The requirement is part of a federal highway bill that Congress passed early last month. Specifically, it calls for automakers to include in new cars a "safety belt use warning system for designated seating positions in the rear seat." Under the bill, the Secretary of Transportation has three years to issue a final rule.

It is unclear what the implementation of the requirement will look like. A recent study found that 'enhanced' reminders, which combine visual and audible warnings, improved seat belt use by nearly 4 percent. In addition, the reminders would need to be able to differentiate between passengers and cargo, although safety advocates warn that drivers may want to buckle heavy items in anyway, in order to prevent them from becoming dangerous projectiles during an accident.

Source: Washington Post, "Seat Belt Reminders Could Come to Backseat," Aug. 2, 2012

At our San Diego law firm, we help people who have been injured in car accidents such as those discussed above. For more information, please visit our personal injury page.

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