Horowhenua Chronicle



While most Kiwis are good at wearing their seatbelts, there are still a surprising number of accidents on our roads involving unbuckled drivers or passengers, AA research has found:

● Up to 30 per cent of car occupants killed on Kiwi roads each year aren’t wearing a seatbelt — 90-100 lives are lost each year.

● Researcher­s believe half of these deaths could have been prevented by seatbelts — 45-50 people could have survived if they’d buckled up.

● Even at lower speeds, failing to wear a seatbelt is very dangerous — there’s a nearly 50 per cent chance of a serious injury if you crash at 50km/h without your seatbelt on.

● The people most likely not to buckle up are those who work in primary industries, drive an older vehicle — especially a truck or van (maybe one without a seatbelt reminder) — men, and those who drive in rural areas.

Putting on a seatbelt is automatic for most of us, but unfortunat­ely some people have made driving unbelted a habit — and it’s those people we need to reach.

Seatbelt reminders

One way that vehicle manufactur­ers try to encourage seatbelt use is with warning systems that alert vehicle occupants if seatbelts aren’t secured.

New vehicles must have a seatbelt warning to reach a five-star ANCAP safety rating, but not all the cars entering the country are new. Around half are used cars, which aren’t subject to ANCAP ratings and may already be a decade old when they arrive.

The average age of cars on New Zealand roads is 14.7 years, compared with 10.1 in Australia and 7.4 in Europe; older cars are less likely to have seatbelt warning systems.

There has been a recent push to make seatbelt systems harder to ignore, with a loud warning sound and a clear visual reminder that lasts for 90 seconds.

Proposed changes would also make backseat seatbelt warning lights mandatory.

“Internatio­nal research shows that seatbelt warning signals, such as loud beeps and chimes, do have a positive effect on rates of seatbelt wearing, and the AA supports their use,” says Simon Douglas, AA general manager motoring affairs.

Also under developmen­t are restraint interlocks, which prevent a car being started if the occupants are not wearing a seatbelt.

“These are a developing technology,” explains Douglas. “Much like alcohol interlocks which are slowly being incorporat­ed into some vehicles as standard safety technology, they show promise. However, universal fitting of seatbelt interlocks in the New Zealand fleet is some considerab­le time away, if ever.”

Changing the culture

These new systems can help, but ultimately we need everyone to wear a seatbelt for every journey. We want to ensure people appreciate what an easy and effective tool they are in reducing death and injuries.

“While technology can play a role in improving rates of seatbelt use,” says Douglas.

“We need to see a definite cultural change among drivers to always ensure they, and their passengers, are belted up before setting off on any drive.”

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