The EU is set to adopt updated UNECE regulations on seatbelts that will require seatbelt reminder systems in all front and rear seats on new cars from September 2019.
Existing EU vehicle safety rules agreed in 2009 only require seatbelt reminder systems on the driver’s seat. The updated requirements also include the front and rear passenger seats.
In the front seats, the systems will need to be able to detect a passenger sitting and make an audible warning at the start of the journey if the belt is not attached. The requirements for rear seats are weaker in that the audible warning will only sound if a belt is unbuckled during the journey.
ETSC has long argued for advanced (occupant detecting) seatbelt reminder systems in front and rear passenger seats. But nevertheless, mandatory front passenger advanced systems and buckle detection in the rear seats represent a step forward for vehicle safety in Europe.
The seatbelt remains the single most effective passive safety feature in vehicles. Despite the legal obligation to wear a seatbelt across the EU28, seatbelt use in cars in the EU is estimated to be only 88% for front seats and as low as 74% for rear seats in the countries that are monitoring wearing.
The rate of seatbelt use is significantly lower amongst passengers of vans and trucks when compared to cars and on different road types, according to several studies. These figures are of particular concern because research has shown that non-wearers are, on average, more likely than wearers to be involved in potentially fatal collisions in which wearing the seatbelt would have saved their life.
ETSC has estimated that 900 deaths could have been prevented in 2012 in the EU if 99% of all occupants had been wearing a seatbelt, a rate that could be reached with seatbelt reminders.
Euro NCAP started giving improved scores for vehicles with advanced seatbelt reminders (with occupancy detection) on rear seats from 2018.
The updated requirements will be adopted by the EU, as an amendment to the existing 2009 EU General Safety Regulation for new vehicles, in the coming months.
In May 2018, the European Commission published a proposal for an entirely new set of vehicle safety requirements to include several advanced technologies such as Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) and overridable Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) on new cars. But that legislation now needs to be passed by the European Parliament and EU Member States in a process that will take at least another 12 months.