June 28, 2006

Seatbelt reminders are effective in ensuring people buckle up, study says

Arlington, Virginia – A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows that seatbelt reminders are effective in ensuring that people buckle up, and are especially effective among motorists who say they do use belts, but not all the time. The study indicates that reminders boosted belt use among Honda drivers surveyed from 84 to 90 per cent. Only six per cent of unbuckled drivers who encountered reminder systems reported ignoring them.

Results are especially impressive among drivers who reported that they usually buckle up, but don’t always; 81 per cent of people in this group said they buckled up the last time they encountered the belt reminder.

The IIHS says that the findings confirm the results of a previous study of Ford vehicle owners, which showed that the system boosted seatbelt use from 71 to 76 per cent in 2000-2002 vehicles, compared with earlier models of the same Fords without reminders. Ford was the first to equip vehicles with extended reminders, beginning with some 2000 models. Most 2006 models have some kind of reminder system, but not all are as intrusive as the Ford and Honda systems. The federal government requires a reminder to last from four to eight seconds; the reminders in Fords persist in intervals for up to five minutes, while Honda vehicles use an intermittent flashing light, plus a chime that last for at least nine minutes.

Despite the potential annoyance, 89 per cent of Honda drivers with reminders said they liked having the system in their vehicles, and 88 per cent said they would want one in their next vehicle. The U.S. seatbelt rate has topped 80 per cent for two straight years, up from less than 20 per cent in the early 1980s and about 60 per cent in 1994. The gains during the 1980s and 1980s resulted largely from enacting and enforcing seatbelt use laws in every state except New Hampshire.

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