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Seat Belt Reminders

In the mid 1990's it was found in Sweden that, despite a high level of general seat belt use (approximately 90 % in the front seat), the use among car occupants killed was only around 40 %. For that reason a Swedish group, representing government, research, insurance companies, and the car and restraint systems industry, approached the problem. The initial reaction was that traditional educational and informational measures directed towards the public needed to be taken. However, the group commissioned the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI) to analyze the problem further. Dahlstedt (1999) studied the non-users in detail and came to the following conclusions:

  • Non seat belt users were in most cases positive or even very positive towards wearing seat belts.
  • The most common arguments for not using the seat belt were “just a short trip” or “sheer forgetfulness”.
  • Only 2,5 % of the non-users were genuinely opposed to seat belts. That constitutes 0,2 % of the whole driver population.

These findings were later confirmed by studies from other countries.

From the findings, the Swedish group concluded that general behavioural shaping measures, e.g. education or information, would have a marginal effect. Instead, the car occupants needed a reminder each time they got into the car if they forgot to put on the seat belt.

This led to the development of a specification of requirements for a seat belt reminder which was later included in the Euro NCAP protocol. For this reason seat belt reminders (SBR) are now standard equipment in most car models today in Europe.

Lie et al. (2007) showed that the seat belt wearing rate was 97.5 % in cars with SBR, and 85.8 % in cars without. These results had not been possible to achieve with traditional behavioural shaping measures, stressing the importance of analysing and understanding the mechanisms behind human behaviour in order to take effective measures.