The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that there were 22,215 vehicle passengers who died as a result of not wearing their seat belt in 2019. Although everyone is aware of the importance of wearing your seat belt when driving or riding around in a vehicle, some people still want to risk their livelihoods by failing to wear one.
You would think that with the importance of seat belt safety, some politicians or policymakers would enforce a law for all car manufacturers to incorporate a mandatory seat belt feature for their vehicles. As it turns out, there actually was a law passed by Congress that would require all vehicles in the United States to have what was known as a seat belt interlock system installed in all vehicles. And that system is finally on its way back to American cars.
Why was the law enforcing the mandated use of seat belt interlock systems overturned?
In 1973, Congress passed a law requiring that all vehicles produced in the United States possess a form of a seat belt interlock system that would not allow the vehicle to start without the seat belt being fastened. The safety measure was pretty basic in nature; it did not require any complex technology, but it was effective in maintaining the safety of the driver and passengers.
Unfortunately, the American people hated it. They wrote letters to their representatives demanding that the law be overturned. Because of this, it has taken nearly 50 years for car manufacturers like General Motors to incorporate a new seat belt interlock system for several of its models.
Did automated safety belts work?
Yes, they appeared to work well. Studies reported that the car drivers with the interlock systems were 41% more likely than car drivers without the system to use lap and shoulder safety belts. In the short amount of time that the seat belt interlock system was introduced, there were already signs of improvement toward seat belt use.
One policeman in particular – Sergeant Elmer Paul – noticed that in many fatal traffic accidents, the vehicle sustained a small amount of damage while the drivers and passengers were still dying. Sergeant Paul ultimately discovered that drivers or passengers were dying from fatal injuries that are associated with failing to wear one’s seat belt, such as being ejected from a vehicle and striking a tree, pole, or some type of object.
Is mandatory seat belt use still an issue for drivers and passengers?
The issue of enforcing mandatory seat belt use has been an issue between consumers and car manufacturing companies for years. In Missouri in 2020, 86% of drivers wore their seat belts – a significant dip from 2019, when the almost 91% wore seat belts. This is obviously not the direction we want to be going in for the future.
Even with all the data that shows that seat belts save lives, drivers and passengers still hate wearing them. We cannot tell you how many times we have heard people complain about seat belts – they lock up, they’re too tight, they crush the neck – and even the little “ding” noise that cars make if you attempt to drive without wearing one.
Still, with more than 20,000 people dying from car accidents whose injuries either could have been prevented or significantly reduced by wearing a seat belt, many drivers and passengers are starting to realize the importance of seat belt use.
How is General Motors taking advantage of the seat belt interlock system?
Car manufacturers like General Motors are listening to their consumers and incorporating new safety features into their newer vehicle models. Lane assist, emergency braking, and backup cameras were all created to make vehicle more safe. The newest safety feature for the upcoming GM models includes a “Buckle to Drive” seat belt interlock system that will be installed in some of the manufacturer’s 2022 models of SUVs and full-size trucks.
Under the “Buckle to Drive” seat belt interlock system, a driver will be unable to shift out of park until the seat belt is properly fastened. The seat belt interlock system was introduced last year as a safety feature for the company’s Teen Driver option on the 2020 Colorado, Traverse, Malibu, and Canyon models. Parents of teenagers definitely were supportive of the feature because teenagers are the group most likely to drive without a seat belt.
This feature helps to ensure that teen drivers are buckling up even when the teen driver forgets to fasten their seat belt, which is often the case when teenagers are learning how to drive for the first time.
Because of the success of the feature, General Motors has decided to include the feature as a standard feature for more of its 2022 SUVs and full-size trucks like the 2022 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra. The manufacturer is also looking for ways to expand the feature for several of its 2023 models. One suggestion that the company is considering is updating the feature to ensure that the front passenger buckles up as well before shifting out of park.
What if some consumers do not want automated seat belts?
In the event that a consumer does not care for the safety feature, there are multiple ways for the feature to be disabled. To access the instructions, consumers can visit the website GM-Techlink.com and manually disable the feature. The website does warn that the vehicle may have to be restarted to register the setting change.
At The Hayden Law Firm, we pair big-firm expertise with small-firm personalized attention to meet your needs and concerns. We take on the insurance companies so you don’t have to, working to secure fair and just compensation for your injuries. Please call our offices at 314.480.3100, or complete a contact form for a free, no-risk consultation. We proudly serve clients in St. Louis, and throughout Missouri and Illinois.
Attorney Amanda L. Hayden has dedicated her legal career to fearlessly advocating for clients and their families after their lives have been devastated by the careless and/or reckless conduct of others.
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