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New seatbelt technology to make driving safer

(CBS) - Seat belts save lives, and new cars are equipped with alerts for drivers and passengers to buckle up, but a new report finds many of those alerts are not loud or long enough.

Data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that in 2019 47% of people killed in car accidents were not wearing a seatbelt.

David Harkey is the president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). He says federal standards require vehicles have seat belt reminders that only last a few seconds.

“Our goal is to go well beyond the federal standards. We want to push that for that audible and visual signal to last 90 seconds and for it to be loud enough," he says. “Let's call it a more annoying warning that would get drivers to buckle up their seatbelt."

With that criteria in mind, the group tested 26 SUV's and only two - the Subaru Forester and Subaru Ascent - received a good rating. Twelve others were given an acceptable or marginal grade.

"Almost half get a poor rating," Harkey says.

The IIHS also wants a visual reminder for back seat passengers. “The seat belt is the most important safety feature that a vehicle has," Harkey says.

IIHS research shows persistent alerts can increase seat belt use up to 34 percent. “Most of the changes that we're talking about with making these audible changes is software - and so it's not a hardware change. And so we think most of the automakers will be able to make this change quickly."

Harkey says those changes could save around 1,500 lives a year.

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Mercedes Martinez

Mercedes Martinez joined the KSWT team as anchor/producer in October 2020. You can catch her on 13 On Your Side at 4:00pm.

Reach out to Mercedes at mercedes.martinez@kecytv.com.

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