The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing rules that would require automakers to equip new vehicles with seat belt warning systems for the front passenger seat and rear seats.
Currently, new cars are only required to alert when the driver is not wearing a seat belt.
The rule would require new vehicles to have a visual warning lasting at least 60 seconds to notify the driver of the status of the rear seat belts. It would also require the vehicles to have an audio-visual change of status warning of at least 30 seconds if a rear seat belt becomes unbuckled while the car is in operation.
The proposed rule would also require an audio-visual seat belt warning that remains active until both the driver and front passenger seat occupants are belted. A warning would also continue sounding if a driver or front passenger seat belt becomes unfastened.
The NHTSA said it estimates the proposed requirement would prevent 300 injuries and over 100 fatalities a year. The NHTSA said that while seat belt use is higher than it was a decade ago, usage rate for rear-seat passengers is far below that of occupants sitting in the front.
“Wearing a seat belt is one of the most effective ways to prevent injury and death in a crash,” NHTSA Acting Administrator Ann Carlson said. “In 2021, almost 43,000 people lost their lives on America’s roads, and half of those in vehicles were unbelted. This proposed rule can help reduce that number by getting more to buckle up.”
The NHTSA says the new rule would apply to passenger vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of under 10,000 pounds.
The agency is accepting public comment on the proposal.