Pilot Tests of a Seat Belt Gearshift Delay on the Belt Use of Commercial Fleet Drivers [Traffic Tech]
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Pilot Tests of a Seat Belt Gearshift Delay on the Belt Use of Commercial Fleet Drivers [Traffic Tech]

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      Wearing a seat belt has been shown effective in avoiding or reducing serious injury due to traffic crashes. While belt use rates in the United States increased from under 60% in 1994 to 83% in 2008, a substantial number of drivers still drive unbelted. Current efforts to increase seat belt use focus primarily on high-visibility enforcement campaigns, public education, and seat belt reminder systems. NHTSA investigated a novel engineering approach using a gearshift delay to increase belt use among commercial drivers in the United States and Canada. A car with automatic transmission cannot shift into gear if the vehicle senses that the brake lights are not lit, meaning that the driver must have a foot on the brake pedal. This safety feature was designed to prevent vehicles from accelerating unintentionally after being placed into drive or reverse. For this study, a relatively simple change to the software code allowed the system to make an additional check before the vehicle can be placed into drive. Specifically, at the same time as the brake light check occurs, the vehicle’s computers checked to see if the driver was belted. If the driver was not belted, a gearshift-seat belt delay system prevented the driver from shifting out of park for several seconds. The timing of the reminder system was designed to prompt drivers before they started driving to avoid the possibility of stimulus overload as they negotiated their way into traffic, a trip segment associated with high cognitive demand. This timing should allow most drivers sufficient time to buckle up, thereby avoiding the prompt. It also had the safety benefit of prompting unbuckled drivers before they placed their vehicles in motion.
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