April 28, 2003

Study shows pretensioners, load limiters effective in crashes

Washington, D.C. – A study released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows the effectiveness of safety belt pretensioning devices, which pull safety belts snug as a crash begins, and load limiters, which allow belts to yield slightly during a crash to reduce the force on the wearer’s chest.

“Over the past few years, some auto manufacturers have voluntarily added significant protection for drivers and passengers by installing these advanced safety belts, and we commend them for taking that action. We hope that these features will become universal,” said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D.

Dr. Runge noted that in model year 2002 approximately 63 percent of new cars and light trucks had pretensioners and 84 percent had load limiters. Information on which vehicles currently offer pretensioners and load limiters can be found at www.NHTSA.com

The agency evaluated New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) frontal crash test data for model years 1998 through 2001. In these tests, vehicles are crashed into an unyielding barrier at 35 mph while instruments measure forces on the head, chest and legs of test dummies.

The combination of pretensioners and load limiters was shown, on average, to reduce the likelihood of chest and head injury. In addition, all vehicles that added either pretensioners or load limiters alone showed a reduction in head and chest injury.

The full NHTSA Technical Report (DOT HS 809 562), and a shorter Evaluation Note (DOT HS 809 562), “NCAP Test Improvements with Pretensioners and Load Limiters,” can be viewed online at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/regrev/evaluate

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