Pickups aren’t doing a good job prompting drivers and passengers to buckle up because their seat belt reminder systems aren’t effective – they often don’t go much beyond the weak federal standard. It’s an important road safety issue, as overall, seat belt use is lower in pickup trucks than other passenger vehicles.
Those are the highlights of new ratings released on Tuesday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit financed by the insurance industry, indicating that pickups need better seat belt reminders.
The assessments were first introduced by the safety group earlier this year to encourage automakers to improve their systems.
Out of 10 popular small and large crew cab 2022 models evaluated, only one – the Toyota Tundra – earned the institute’s top rating of “good.”
“National belt use observations show that people driving or riding in pickups are less likely to buckle up than occupants of other vehicles, so effective reminders are especially important for these vehicles,” David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute, said in a statement.
Nearly a third of pickup occupant deaths in 2020 occurred in rollover crashes, in which seat belt use plays a key role because of the risk of ejection, researchers said.
“This is a solvable problem,” Harkey added.
Previous research by the Insurance Institute indicated that more noticeable and persistent alerts could increase belt use among those who do not routinely buckle up by as much as 34%, preventing an estimated 1,500 fatalities a year.
According to federal standards, seat belt reminders must include an audible signal that lasts for 4-8 seconds and a visual alert that lasts at least 60 seconds when the driver’s seat belt is unbuckled at ignition.
In order to earn a good rating from the Insurance Institute, there are specific criteria that seat belt reminders must meet for audible and visual alerts when the vehicle is moving at a certain speed and the system detects an unbelted occupant in the driver or passenger seat. These include: initiation time, location, duration, volume and frequency.
(The institute’s ratings, which range from highest to lowest, are: good, acceptable, marginal or poor.)
Five pickup models, including the popular Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado 1500, as well as the Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Maverick and Ford Ranger, scored the lowest rating of “poor.”
Most of these pickups have front-row reminders that are loud enough, the assessment found, but all are short than 8 seconds in duration — the minimum length needed for a marginal rating.
Two small pickups, the Hyundai Santa Cruz and Nissan Frontier, earned an acceptable rating.
The Ram 1500 and Toyota Tacoma each earned marginal ratings.
For more information about the ratings, including specific details about each of the models evaluated, click here.