Annoying or life saving? IIHS finds seat belt reminders insufficient in most pickup trucks | News


Despite efforts such as the long-running “Click It or Ticket” campaign, many drivers still refuse to “click it” when they get behind the wheel – and pick-up occupants are the worst offenders. That’s according to a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety evaluating the seat belt reminder systems of popular pickup trucks. IIHS found that pickup truck occupants are less likely to be buckled in compared to other vehicle types, and based on the agency’s seat belt reminder evaluation criteria, only the 2022 Toyota Tundra scores a good body style rating.

Related: Here’s every car that has earned an IIHS Top Safety Award for 2022

According to IIHS, the danger of unbuckling driving is real: while an estimated 90% of front seat occupants report consistently wearing their seat belts, the 10% who avoid the seat belt are at a much higher risk of death in a crash. Previous research has shown that seat belts reduce the risk of death for front seat occupants by 45%, and that almost half of fatalities in an accident were not wearing seat belts. In addition, about a third of the deaths of pick-up occupants in 2020 were due to rollover collisions, where seat belt wear is critical.

As the federal campaign fails to convince 10% of occupants to fasten their seat belts, IIHS believes the more direct approach of a well-designed seat belt reminder system is the answer. Federal standards require vehicles to have an audible signal that lasts 4-8 seconds and a visual warning that lasts at least 60 seconds when the driver’s seat belt is released at the ignition. IIHS claims that is insufficient.

Seatbelt warnings: the more annoying, the better

IIHS uses stricter criteria for assessing seat belt reminder systems. The reminder alerts must be loud enough to be heard above the background noise in the vehicle and must last a minimum of 90 seconds. A visual signal should also indicate whether the occupants in the rear seats are buckled in when the vehicle is started. Finally, both an audible and visual warning must be activated for at least 30 seconds if a rear seat belt is unfastened.

The agency rates seat belt reminders as good, acceptable, marginal or bad based on the volume, duration and timing of the audible warnings. A properly rated system should provide an audible and visual warning on the dash display, roof panel or center console when the vehicle is traveling at a speed of at least 10 km/h and there is an unbuckled occupant in the driver’s or front passenger’s seat. It should also be activated if a passenger in the back seat unfastens the seat belt while the vehicle is in motion.

In summary, the warnings should be impossible to ignore, but is the annoyance worth it? According to IIHS, more persistent warnings could increase seat belt use by 34%, saving nearly 1,500 lives a year.

The results

IIHS evaluated 10 new pickup trucks (all 2022 crew cabs) and found that only the Toyota Tundra met all the criteria. Here’s the full list:

  • Toyota Tundra: Good
  • Hyundai Santa Cruz: acceptable
  • Nissan Frontier: Acceptable
  • Aries 1500: Marginal
  • Toyota Tacoma: Marginal
  • Chevrolet Colorado: Bad
  • Chevrolet Silverado: Bad
  • Ford F-150: bad
  • Ford Maverick: Bad
  • Ford Ranger: Bad

All others were missing one or more of the required elements, and seven pickups scored marginal or poor. The all-new Hyundai Santa Cruz and the redesigned Nissan Frontier check the reminder boxes in the front seats, but only earn acceptable ratings for their lack of rear-seat warnings. On the other hand, poorly rated vehicles, including the Chevrolet Colorado and Silverado and Ford F-150, Maverick, and Ranger, have front seat memories shorter than the minimum duration.

IIHS research indicates that car owners should not rely solely on the seat belt warning system. Instead, they should make it a habit to fasten their seat belts before every ride and make sure all back seat occupants are secured before hitting the road. Buyers should consider the vehicle seat belt reminder rating if they are concerned about the safety of the occupants in the back seat or if they often forget to fasten themselves.

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