On September 27, 2019, NHTSA announced it is seeking public comment on a variety of issues related to a requirement for a rear seat belt warning system, including potential features of such systems, the vehicles to which they should apply, their effectiveness, the likely consumer acceptance, and the associated costs and benefits.
According to NHTSA, only about three-quarters of rear seat passengers buckle up, compared to roughly 90 percent of front-seat passengers. Therefore, in 2012, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act directed NHTSA to initiate rulemaking proceedings to amend FMVSS 208, “Occupant crash protection,” to require a seat belt usage warning system for rear seats. Such rulemaking proceedings were initiated in 2013, with the latest action being the request for comments by November 27th, 2019.
An audible and/or visual alarm would be activated when any rear passenger is not wearing a seat belt. FMVSS 208 currently requires this alert only for the driver’s seat (though manufacturers routinely offer it for the front passenger, as well). Only about 13 percent of model-year 2019 vehicles sold in the U.S. have voluntarily provided a rear seatbelt warning system, as well.
As children are often passengers in rear seats, this system would provide warnings for booster users and older kids who are not buckled up. In addition, it would alert caregivers to CRs that have been installed using a seat belt have been unbuckled (for instance, by accident). However, this topic does bring up questions regarding how the system would operate when a CR is installed using only the LATCH system.