November 26, 2003

Study shows 69% of drivers fasten seatbelts after starting engine

Warren, Michigan – A study commissioned by General Motors showed that nearly 69 percent of drivers fasten their safety belts after starting their vehicles, and about 20 percent don’t buckle up until the vehicle is put into gear. Another 3 percent do not fasten their safety belt until more than 19 seconds after placing the vehicle in gear.

“This study helped us learn more about when people buckle up, and confirms for us that a more prolonged reminder system may help get some safety belt holdouts to buckle up,” said Jim Khoury, a GM safety engineer and expert on advanced safety belt and air bag research.

In the GM study, independent researchers observed drivers in two urban areas, Halifax, Nova Scotia, where safety belt use is high; and Pinellas County, Florida, where safety belt use is lower. A total of 1,600 drivers were observed leaving for work and in the parking lots of self-service gas stations, supermarkets, banks and drug stores.

The current safety belt reminder system in the majority of new GM vehicles consists of eight seconds of a chime and 20 seconds of a solid warning light, followed by an additional 55 seconds of flashing light. In 2004 model year full-size pick-ups and sport-utility vehicles equipped with an automatic front passenger air bag suppression system, front-seat passengers also are reminded electronically to fasten their safety belt. United States Federal law requires four to eight seconds each of chime and light for the driver only.

In 2001, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety studied a seat belt reminder system that chimes for up to five minutes and found that it increased belt use among drivers in Tulsa and Oklahoma City by 5 percentage points.

“We applaud GM for its commitment to improved safety belt reminder systems. Devices that enhance belt use will reduce death and injuries on American roadways,” said Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D., administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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