In new seatbelt recall ratings for SUVs, only two Subarus get top ratings
In the first round of tests of seatbelt reminder systems in 26 small and midsize SUVs, only two earned the highest rating – the Ascent and the Forester, both Subarus. Nineteen evaluated models received a marginal or mediocre rating.
As nearly half of drivers and front-seat passengers killed in crashes in 2019 were unrestrained, fastening those seatbelts could save up to 1,500 lives a year, and more persistent alerts could be a way to achieve it. .
These are the results of a new testing program announced last month by the Insurance Institute for Road Safetya not-for-profit organization funded by the insurance industry.
“Now everyone knows that seatbelts save lives when they’re used,” David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute, said in a statement, noting that most Americans use their seatbelts. , especially in the front seat, but the small number that doesn’t translate to a lot of deaths.
Most of the time, people just forget to buckle up.
“Our research shows that effective seat belt reminders can also save lives by getting those who are not diligent to buckle up,” Harkey added. “These new ratings are designed to push manufacturers to realize that potential.”
The goal of the ratings is to encourage manufacturers to improve their seat belt recalls to exceed federal requirements by adopting more effective and consistent standards, the safety group said.
The seat belt reminder systems of each of the 26 SUVs tested were rated as good, fair, marginal, or poor, based on the volume, duration, and timing of audible alerts, as well as visual indicators and the presence of front and rear seat systems.
Only two Subaru models, the Ascent and the Forester, earned good marks. Five others, the Hyundai Palisade, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Murano, Nissan Pathfinder and Nissan Rogue, received acceptable ratings.
Seven other models were classified as marginal: the Jeep Compass, Jeep Renegade, Jeep Wrangler, Mazda CX-5, Mazda CX-9, Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Highlander.
Twelve received a poor rating: the Audi Q3, Buick Encore, Chevrolet Equinox, Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Escape, Ford Explorer, Honda CR-V, Honda HR-V, Honda Pilot, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Volkswagen Atlas and Volvo XC40.
Typical criteria that caused lower ratings include: audible alerts that did not start early enough or were not loud enough to be heard over background noise and lack of seat belt reminders for second row.
Previous search by the Insurance Institute found that more noticeable and persistent alerts were significantly more effective at prompting drivers to buckle up than minimal reminders and could increase seatbelt use by up to 34%.
“The gold standard is a red flag that cannot be ignored,” Sean O’Malley, senior testing coordinator at the Insurance Institute, which conducted the assessments, said in a statement.
The only vehicles that received the highest rating of good, the Ascent and the Forester, featured audible alerts that the human ear perceives to be about four times louder than the vehicle’s ambient noise and which do not stop until the unbuckled belt is not buckled.
The safety group said simple software tweaks could likely improve many vehicles.
“Most of these problems don’t require new hardware,” O’Malley added. “Even among vehicles that get poor ratings, it’s possible that simply extending the duration of the warning sound might do the trick.”
For more information on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s testing program and ratings for specific SUVs, click here.