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Lawsuit — Dept. of Transportation Has Failed to Mandate Rear Seat Belt Warning

Posted on September 22, 2017

Riding in a car and buckling the front seatbelt is almost an unconscious act for most of us.

But in the back seat, it’s sometimes a different story.

Reaching for a belt so far behind your shoulder can be uncomfortable and cumbersome and many people simply don’t bother.

Besides, I have the front seat to stop me, right? Wrong.

In August, The Center for Auto Safety and KidsandCars.org filed a lawsuit to force the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to require a rear seat belt warning alarm that would sound when the rear seat belt is not clicked into place.

The system sound would alarm when someone in the back seat is not bucked in, not unlike what occurs in the front seat.

The lawsuit names Elaine Chao, Secretary of the DOT, and charges her with the failure of the agency to comply with mandated deadlines, “to promulgate a critical automobile safety standard that will save thousands of lives each year, including those of young children, and prevent many other thousands of people, including children, from experiencing physical injuries, pain, and suffering.”

The safety standard is overdue.

In June 2012, Congress passed legislation requiring the rear seat belt warning. The standard was supposed to go into effective by October 2014.
Now, almost five years later, the DOT has done nothing.

Both consumer organizations say that their work protecting the public is being hampered because the agency is not doing its job and is responsible for the continuing risk of injury and death to passengers in those seating positions.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, someone not wearing a seatbelt in the rear seat, is nearly eight times as likely to sustain a serious injury compared to a person belted up.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2008, nearly 14,000 vehicle passengers were killed due to a failure to wear their seat belts, which amounts to about 38 deaths per day.

It’s estimated half of those people would be alive if they had worn their seat belt.

Specifically in the rear seat, another federal statistics shows 291 unrestrained rear seat passengers were killed between October and December 2015 alone, and 180 in the rear seat suffered serious injuries.

Unfortunately, it’s children who bear the brunt of these injuries.

In 2005, of the 304 fatalities among children ages 4 to 7, nearly half were unrestrained (136). Of the 3,300 unrestrained children involved in crashes between 1998 and 2002, 27% were killed.

In 2015 alone, NHTSA estimates 13,941 lives were saved through the use of seat belts.

To date the Secretary of the DOT has not even published a proposed rule for the standard, which is also required by law.

In an email to the consumer group, FairWarning.org, NHTSA said “The safe movement of the traveling public remains our top priority.”