The NHTSA says over 3,000 lives would have been saved in 2012 had all U.S. automobile occupants been wearing seat belts. Compared to the hard-luck stats bemoaned by people on a daily basis, this considerable amount of deaths resulted from people being too lazy or arrogant to buckle a seat belt. There is no excuse. In fact, General Motors (NYSE:GM) plans to make sure there is no excuse for buckling up on the road, as the automaker announced some future vehicles will be impossible to drive without the occupants having their seat belts fastened.
GM said it is working on technology that keeps vehicles in “park” and unable to shift into drive until the front-seat passengers buckle their belts. It will be called the Belt Assurance System, with the announcement arriving ahead of the high-traffic Memorial Day Weekend. GM is launching the initiative in support of the NHTSA’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign that runs annually from mid-May until June 1.
NHTSA ads are seen on major television networks reminding drivers of the dangers involved with driving without a seat belt and how police are on high alert to ticket offenders seen ignoring the mandate. The increase in seat belt awareness comes with the first increase in fatalities (ion 2012) for unbuckled occupants in over five years. The NHTSA estimates that 87 percent of U.S. vehicle occupants now wear seat belts. GM would like to be seen as a key contributor to auto safety initiatives in light of its ignition switch recall debacle. Company officials highlighted this angle in a statement released May 19.
“Customer safety is on the forefront of everything we do,” said Jeff Boyer, GM’s vice president of global auto safety. “It is essential for the safety of our customers and all drivers’ safety to develop the habit of buckling up each and every time they get into their vehicles.”
GM vehicles equipped with OnStar are going to hear a reminder to stay buckled up when drivers use the system for non-emergency situations until June 1 as the “Click It or Ticket” campaign winds down. As for the Belt Assurance System, GM is going to integrate that in vehicles set for release in late 2014.
NHTSA statistics on traffic fatalities are convincing. Over 60 percent of auto occupants killed at night were not wearing seat belts. As auto consumers have learned over the years, unseen vehicle defects are enough to create damage and lead to fatalities on the road. Buckling a seat belt in a vehicle equipped with air bags is the safest way to proceed, and GM has good reason to be the first automaker that alerts the public of these facts.