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With all the car safety bells and whistles in new cars, it’s easy to forget the more traditional features. The good, old-fashioned seat belt is still one of the most revolutionary safety devices. And in crash tests and real-world car accidents, a well-designed and properly worn seat belt saves lives.

Supporting seat belts are seat belt reminders. They’re excellent tools for helping vehicle occupants remember to secure themselves. Because seat belt reminders can save lives, they’re a top testing priority for the IIHS. Some seat belt reminder systems are far superior to others. And in this latest assessment, the Insurance Institue for Highway Safety says 12 SUVs failed in this crucial car safety category.

Seat belt reminders are essential safety features

Seat belt reminder IIHS Subaru Forester top rating
The 2022 Subaru Forester earned top IIHS ratings for its seat belt reminder system | Subaru of America, Inc.

According to the IIHS, seat belt reminders are as important and effective as seat belts. Those warning sounds after you’ve started driving without your seat belt fastened are designed to annoy you. So even occupants who don’t prioritize car safety by using safety belts will feel compelled to buckle up to stop the incessant reminder.

It’s simple: Seat belts reduce the risk of death among front-seated occupants in crashes by 45%. Roughly 90% of drivers and passengers use seat belts. But among front seat crash deaths reported, nearly half didn’t fasten their seat belts properly.

Reminders continue to be important car safety features because additional studies have proven these systems prompt occupants to buckle up. But the most successful seat belt reminders involve both gear-shifting interlocks and audible reminders.

The IIHS looks for those key indicators when reviewing a vehicle’s seat belt reminder effectiveness.

The 12 SUVs that failed IIHS seat belt reminder tests

The IIHS recently announced its findings after performing assessments on seat belt reminders. And a dozen SUVs struggled to pass.

The IIHS says its new ratings program intends to push manufacturers to improve seat belt reminder systems, which could save up to 1,500 lives a year.

For its testing, the IIHS relies on federal standards for seat belt reminders to include an audible tone that lasts four to eight seconds. Additionally, a visual sensor alert must last a full minute. Vehicles with more noticeable and consistent alert systems are ideal.

Other ratings criteria include those reminders with audible and visual alerts in the dashboard and center console displays. The top-performing systems continue alerting occupants up to 6 mph and detect an unbelted front-row passenger and second-row unfastened occupants.

A dozen 2022 SUV models earned “poor” ratings in IIHS seat belt reminder testing. The Honda HR-V, Audi Q3, Buick Encore, Chevrolet Equinox, and Traverse failed. Other poor performers were the Ford Escape and Explorer, Honda CR-V and Pilot, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Volkswagen Atlas, and Volvo XC40.

Models with ‘marginal’ or ‘acceptable’ ratings

SUVs that didn’t fail but received only “marginal” seat belt reminder ratings are the Jeep Compass, Renegade, and Wrangler. The Mazda CX-5 and CX-9 also earned mediocre marks, as did the Toyota RAV4 and Highlander. 

Performing slightly better in the seat belt reminder evaluations with “acceptable” ratings are the Hyundai Tucson and Palisade. Three Nissan models also fell into this category, with the Murano, Pathfinder, and Rogue all earning “acceptable” scores. 

So, before buying a 2022 SUV, test out the car safety equipment and tech, including the seat belt reminder systems. And keep the above models in mind.


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