Federal Regulators Consider Seat Belt Ignition Interlocks on Automobiles
August 30, 2013 8:32 AM
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Seatbelt ignition interlocks haven't been used since the 70s
Seatbelts have been mandatory in the United States for decades, but many drivers and passengers still refused to wear them. Federal regulators are currently conducting more research on whether or not they will allow automakers to install seatbelt ignition interlocks that would allow the manufacturer to skip crash tests designed to protect unbelted motorists.
The seatbelt ignition interlock would prevent the automobile from starting unless the
seatbelt was clasped
. Back in 1974 the government required interlocks on nearly all 1974 year model vehicles. However, public outcry led Congress to banish the mandate.
This week the NHTSA reportedly rejected a petition from BMW that would allow the German automaker to skip certain crash testing requirements if it installed seatbelt interlocks in front seats. BMW apparently feels that it could make better use of its resources by not catering to those who refuse to buckle up. In essence, this means that if you choose not to buckle up, you’re own your own, as there won’t be any additional safety features to protect you in the event of a crash.
BMW M4 Coupe Concept
Although the NHTSA denied BMW’s petition for now, the agency said that more information was needed before it can grant such a request.
BMW maintains that having seatbelt ignition interlocks could save hundreds of lives by increasing seatbelt use. BMW also says that using these interlocks could make vehicles lighter and more spacious by allowing them to remove knee bolsters designed to protect unbelted occupants.
Lighter weight vehicles mean vehicles with not only improved fuel efficiency, but improved performance as well.
BMW outlined three different potential types of interlocks including one that would prevent the vehicle from being started without a seatbelt in place. Another would prevent the driver from shifting out of Park and a third would allow the vehicle to be driven only at low speeds without the seatbelt being buckled.
BMW concluded that the third option would be the "least annoying and most accepted type of interlock."
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8/30/2013 12:42:10 PM
Because of the US requirement for protecting beltless idiots, we end up with these ridiculous knee bolsters to stabilise the said beltless idiot while an otherwise unnecessarily huge airbag protects him/her from their own stupidity. That's all very well but it actually makes life more dangerous for the rest of us who wear a belt. This is because you hit the knee bolster with your knees much sooner and faster than you would hit the inside the car without the bolster because the seatbelt hasn't had time to slow you down. So you put much higher crash loads on your femurs and knees. Also, as has already been posted, the airbag has to be much bigger than a Eurostyle airbag which is designed for a belted driver, so it can easily kill a small driver sitting close to the steering wheel. This is sort of reverse Darwinian- you protect the idiots at the expense of the prudent. European manufacturers usually fit smaller airbags outside the US but quite often the ridiculous bolster is harder to design out so is left in place. I had an exchange of emails with the European safety testing organisation Euroncap on this topic and they confirmed my point on this issue.
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