CR 211: Benefits of Seat Belt Reminder Systems (2002)

Historically Australia has played a leading role in promoting seat belt use, principally through government legislation since the 1970s. Australian Design Rule 69 (ADR69), mandated to apply from 1995, saw the introduction of a five-second warning light designed to act as a seat belt reminder system. Despite seat belt wearing rates for front seat occupants being in the vicinity of 95% for the past decade, current non-wearing rates in casualty crashes are as high as 33% of killed occupants and 20% of seriously injured occupants. These statistics reflect the effectiveness of seat belts in preventing injuries, and potentially a tendency for unrestrained drivers to be higher risk takers. Within this context this study set out to determine whether the introduction of a more aggressive seat belt reminder system would be cost-beneficial for Australia.

Several devices have been developed in recent years to remind vehicle occupants to buckle up. The Beltminder developed by Ford is one recent example, which comprises a flashing light on the dashboard and a warning tone of reasonable intensity. Variants of this include an option for the flashing rate and tone intensity to increase at higher travel speeds.

The effectiveness of these devices will depend on the occupants response to them. Safety experts argue that those who forget to put on their belts are likely to be the target audience for seat belt reminders, rather than the "hard-core" non-wearers. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety and Ford have reported increased wearing rates of around 17% for the Beltminder system.

The European New Car Assessment Program (Euro-NCAP) has announced they intend to provide added point bonuses for cars they assess for crashworthiness if vehicles are fitted with seat belt reminders. The auto manufacturers generally support the introduction of these devices.

Note: This report has been updated to correct calculation errors in CR211. As a result the benefit cost ratios have changed slightly but the overall findings and conclusions are not affected.

Type: Research and Analysis Report

Sub Type: Consultant Report

Author(s): Fildes B, Fitzharris M, Koppel S, Vulcan P

ISBN: 0 642 25503 2

ISSN: 1445 4467

Topics: Economic, Seat belts, Vehicle design

Publication Date: 01/12/02