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Status Report, Vol. 38, No. 6 | June 16, 2003 Subscribe

Ford drivers say they like being reminded to buckle up

A recent survey of drivers of Fords equipped with Belt Minder systems found favorable reviews. Most of the drivers said they like the reminder and want a system like it in their next car. Many drivers said they’re buckling up more often, confirming results of an earlier observational study conducted by the Institute (see "Safety belt reminder system in late-model Fords boosts buckle-up rate," Feb. 9, 2002).

Beginning with 2000 models, Ford began equipping vehicles with the reminders. When a driver fails to buckle up, the system activates a flashing light on the dashboard and sounds a chime for 6 seconds, followed by a 30-second pause. This sequence is repeated for up to 5 minutes if the driver doesn't respond. It's a much longer reminder sequence than the 4- to 8-second audible and visual warnings required in all cars.

Interviewers questioned 405 drivers at Ford dealerships in the Boston area. Sixty-seven percent of the drivers said they had activated the reminder by failing to buckle up one or more times. Of this group, 73 percent said they buckled up the last time this happened. Almost half of all drivers reported an increase in their own belt use since they began driving a Ford equipped with the reminder.

Overall, when asked if they liked having the belt reminder system, 78 percent of respondents said yes. Seventy-nine percent said they would like to have a reminder in their next car.

Safety belt reminder systems are especially targeted to people who forget to buckle up or, for whatever reason, use a belt only occasionally. The premise is that at least some of these motorists would welcome being reminded.

"There's evidence that this group is responding," says Allan Williams, the Institute's chief scientist. "Seventy-six percent of those who said they usually, but not always, buckle up reported that their buckle-up rates had increased."

The reminder system isn't universally favored, and it hasn't convinced most nonusers of safety belts to change their ways. Five percent of the respondents to the Institute survey spontaneously said the system is an especially disliked feature. The 7 percent of drivers who reported that they never, or only occasionally, use their belts were unlikely to to do so in response to the reminder. Only 1 in 5 of these drivers said they buckled up the last time the reminder activated, and fewer than 1 in 10 said their belt use had increased as a result of reminder system.

Belt use among drivers of pickup trucks is known to be lower than among drivers of other types of passenger vehicles. According to the survey, 47 percent of pickup drivers always use their belts. This compares with 68 percent of passenger car drivers and 77 percent of SUV drivers. However, the pickup truck drivers were just as likely to report increased belt use because of the reminder system — 45 percent reported higher belt use compared with 46 percent of drivers of all other types of vehicles.

"Belt reminders of various types are going to show up in more vehicles in the near future," Williams says. "It's important to know how people will respond to them, and this survey suggests the overall response will be positive."

"Based on your personal experience, what do you think about the belt reminder system?"
When this question was asked of drivers at Ford dealerships, most of the responses to the Institute survey were positive:

73% positive
25% said belt reminders are helpful
22% said they're a good idea
9% said they "annoy me into using a belt"
16% other
19% negative
13% said belt reminders are annoying
6% other
7% neutral

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