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Legal Blog

Should Automakers Install Rear Seat Belt Warnings?

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is now the subject of a lawsuit filed by two nonprofit consumer groups for the failure of the agency to institute rules for an Obama-era piece of legislation requiring rear seat belt warnings. KidsandCars.org and The Center for Auto Safety is confronting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for failing to meet a deadline requiring auto manufacturers to place rear-seat warning technology in all future motor vehicles.

Have you suffered a severe injury in a motor vehicle crash? Our team at the The Krist Law Firm, P.C. has the resources and trial experience necessary to maneuver your case successfully through the legal system in order to help you obtain the compensation to which you may be entitled.

Call us today at (281) 283-8500, or contact us online to request a free consultation with a car accident attorney.

Current Seat Belt Warning Systems

Many automobile manufacturers install seat belt warning systems into their vehicles that cause a beeping or dinging sound if the driver has not buckled up. Some automakers also install these warning systems for front seat passengers. However, very few manufacturers install these systems for rear seat passengers.

The 2012 Rear Seat Belt Rule

In 2012, President Obama signed legislation into law that mandated the NHTSA to develop and issue a rule by October 2015 that requires rear seat belt warnings to be installed in all future manufactured vehicles. Two years later, and the NHTSA still has not developed the required rule.

Lawsuit Against the DOT

The goal of the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is to force the NHTSA to take action and put the required rules into effect mandating the installation of rear seat belt warnings. In the lawsuit, KidsandCars.org and The Center for Auto Safety reference the fact that approximately 1,000 people lose their lives each year in the United States due to their failure to use rear seat belts.

Safety Issues

The safety issues surrounding the use of seat belts are important to understand. Per NHTSA statistics, more than 35,000 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes in 2015, the highest figure over the previous seven years. At the same time, nearly 14,000 lives were saved by the use of seat belts.

However, traffic fatalities are on the rise, with the loss of nearly 40,000 people on U.S. roads in 2016.

Looking at a broader range of years, the NHTSA states that over 340,000 lives were saved from 1976 to 2015 through the use of seat belts. The organization estimates that an additional 316,000 lives would have been saved during this period if everyone involved in these fatal crashes had worn seat belts.

Therefore, the statistics demonstrate that the use of seat belts significantly reduces injuries and fatalities.

Another compelling argument for the use of rear seat belt warnings is the fact that a person traveling in the backseat without wearing a safety belt places not only their own safety at risk, but also the safety of those traveling in the front seats. During an accident, an unbuckled rear seat passenger can slam violently into the back of the front seat, pushing the driver or front seat passenger forward against the steering wheel and/or console.

A recent study also shows that fatality rates of drivers in vehicles having seat belt reminders were around six percent lower than those in vehicles without these systems. The likely conclusion is that requiring rear seat belt warnings will have a similar life-saving effect.

According to the IIHS, failing to use a seat belt as a rear passenger is more common. Some 91 percent of front seat adult occupants say they buckle up, with only 72 percent of rear seat passengers claiming to use a seat belt. The number of those buckling up in the back seat falls to 57 percent when traveling by cab, or with a service such as Uber or Lyft.

The reason for this disparity can be attributed to the notion that riding in the back seat is safer than in the front. Statistically this may be true, however it does not remove the negligence of back seat passengers who fail to use seat belts and thus place front seat passengers in a more vulnerable position of incurring serious injuries or even death.

Get Representation from an Experienced Houston Car Accident Attorney

If you have suffered an injury in a car accident, allow our experienced team at The Krist Law Firm, P.C. to provide you with compassionate and determined representation in order to help you obtain any compensation you are owed.

To schedule a free case evaluation, contact us online, or call us today at (281) 283-8500.