Federal proposal aims to increase back seat buckling with new warning system

The federal government announced a new proposed rule Monday, aimed at getting people to buckle up even when they’re in the back seat of a car.

"Wearing a seat belt is one of the most effective ways to prevent injury and death in a crash," National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Acting Administrator Ann Carlson said in a release. "In 2021, almost 43,000 people lost their lives on America’s roads, and half of those in vehicles were unbelted. This proposed rule change can help reduce that number by getting more to buckle up."

For rear seats, the proposed rule would require "a visual warning on vehicle startup lasting at least 60 seconds to notify the driver of the status of the rear seat belts." It would also mandate "an audiovisual change-of-status warning lasting at least 30 seconds if a rear seat belt is unbuckled while the vehicle is in operation."

"It’s good news for safety," said Jonathan Adkins, the CEO of the Governors Highway Safety Association, which has advocated for the new rule for more than a decade.


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According to NHTSA estimates, the rule could prevent about 300 non-fatal injuries and more than 100 deaths annually.

"Think about people in a rideshare, for example. We get in Uber or Lyft, we’re a little discombobulated. We’re trying to find the vehicle, we’re trying to get settled. We don’t always buckle up, even those who know better," Adkins explained. "This is gonna remind the driver that you do have a responsibility to check and make sure that folks are buckled."

Most people FOX 5 spoke with in Bethesda on Monday said they supported the proposed rule.

"Having an alert could be helpful," said Richard McClintock.

Others, however, felt differently.

"I pretty much never wear my seatbelt, even though I know I should," Jack Fisher said.

The proposed rule change would mandate seat belt use warning systems for right front passenger seats in vehicles as well.