Seat belts do save lives

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), reports that the increased seat belt reminders in new vehicles has resulted in increased use of the seat belts, and has reduced driver fatalities.

The institute issues a publication called, "Status Report". The latest issue advises that all new cars sold in the United States since 1975, have displayed a warning light with sound and audible signal for four to eight seconds after the ignition starts, if the driver has failed to fasten the seat belt.

Over the past 10 years, automakers have voluntarily extended the length of the warning, to longer than eight seconds. Now in 2009, more than 90% of new cars have these enhanced reminders.

Systems were compared in Fords and Hondas, and found the enhanced belt reminder system increased driver belt usage by five to six percentage points, as per the IIHS report.

The researchers compared 2000-07 driver fatality rates per vehicle registration per year for vehicles, with and without enhanced belt reminders. “After adjusting for age differences of the vehicles being compared, the estimated effect of enhanced belt reminders on driver fatality risk was a 2% reduction.”

Although this percentage reduction seems small, out of the 21,647 driver deaths in the United States during 2007, only 3,442 were in vehicles with enhanced belt reminders.

Booster seats
Be sure that you put the shoulder belt flat across the chest and the lap best is snugacross the upper thighs when belting in a child in a booster seat.

The insurance answer
The insurance answer is to wear your seat belt, observe proper rules of the road when driving, and do not drive distracted. This will reduce claims and fatalities. If you have less claims, then your insurance rates will be lower. An air bag alone will not save your life in a crash, it will help but you need to be wearing your seat belt to prevent impact with the windshield.

In Manitoba we have seen a rise in the number of fatal motor vehicle collisions. In spite of all the public awareness campaigns and on-going advertising about wear seat belts, not drinking and driving or speeding there have been 60 deaths this year.

Seat belt compliance province-wide has dropped from 92% in 2005 to 89% this year. In the rural areas it is down to 86%.

The fatalities are from car, truck, four-wheeler and snowmobile accidents. The concern is that the rates had been going down and this is a reversal of the trend. As a result the RCMP are focusing on seat belt enforcement. If you or the passengers in your vehicle are ticketed for being unbuckled outside of Winnipeg but including the Perimeter Highway then the fine will be $247.

At this point the Winnipeg Police Service do not have a similar plan for increased enforcement of the seat belt rule.