The importance of seat belt data
Published on May 30, 2022 in Driver Safety by Paul Ciolek | 5 minute read
Table of contents
Reporting seat belt data is essential for overall fleet safety.
Seat belt information is crucial to many of Geotab’s customers. Not only is wearing a seat belt the law in most regions, but it is also the best way to prevent fleet drivers from serious injury or even death. However, when it comes to reporting seat belt data, it is not always as easy to retrieve. With multiple different methods of reporting seat belt data across vehicle manufacturers, it is up to telematics companies, like Geotab, to find the best way to consolidate and report these important figures to fleets.
How effective is a seat belt?
Even if your vehicle receives top safety and dependability ratings, you're always at risk of crashing while driving. One of the most effective strategies to lower the risk of injuries and deaths while driving is to wear a seat belt. Buckling up will not only keep you safe, but it will also keep you from receiving fines.
The benefit is clear. “Wearing a seat belt can reduce fatalities among front-seat passengers by up to 50% and among rear seat car passengers by up to 75%,” as reported by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
According to a report from the European European Road Safety Observatory:
- Seat belt wearing reduces the risk of injury by 60%.
- An estimated 25% to 50% of fatally injured occupants of cars were not wearing a seat belt.
- Those who don’t wear a seat belt increase the risk of injury to other vehicle occupants, because unrestrained individuals can become projectiles during a collision.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, seat belt use is identified as one of the five main risk factors of road traffic deaths and injuries.
What percentage of the people wear seat belts?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the national use rate for seat belts in the United States for 2021 was 90.4%. This also means that 9.6% of Americans don’t wear seat belts; a number that is still too high.
The European Commission's Road Safety Charter reports that most European countries have a seat belt wearing percentage of more than 95% for front seat passengers. However, it varies between 70% and 98% in back seats. The lowest incidence of seat-wearing among car drivers is 62.7 percent in Italy, and the highest rate is 99.4 percent in France.
What are the legal consequences of not wearing a seat belt?
Depending on the region in which you are driving, there are many different legal consequences that could be applied if you are caught not wearing a seat belt. For example, in Ontario, Canada, you could be fined between $200 and $1,000 and get two demerit points on your license.
In the U.S., seat belt fines depend on whether the state has primary or secondary enforcement laws on seat belts. In primary enforcement states, police can pull over and fine drivers or passengers based solely on not wearing seat belts. In secondary enforcement states, drivers can only be charged with seat belt violations if they are pulled over for another infraction and are seen to not be wearing a seat belt.
Why reporting seat belt data matters
Different vehicle models, makes and years can all report seat belt data differently. Because of this, it's important to find a way to accurately report on seat belt use across your fleet. Recording seat belt data helps your fleet’s drivers stay compliant with your driver safety programs, protecting both the driver and your company from harm.
Not only is wearing a seat belt the law in most regions of the world, but it is also one of the easiest ways to prevent severe injury or death in the event of a crash. According to the NHTSA, 51% of passenger vehicle occupants that were killed in 2020 were not wearing a seat belt. They also estimate that out of 23,824 people killed in motor vehicle collisions, 14,955 (approximately 62%) could have been saved if they were wearing a seat belt. These numbers alone are enough to understand the importance of seat belt use in your fleet.
Obtaining seat belt data
While it seems seat belt data should be straightforward to report with there being only two states – buckled or unbuckled – in actuality, it is not. The many complexities include:
- Seat belt data is specific to the vehicle manufacturer. This means that different models and makes report the data in different locations through different On-board diagnostics Parameter IDs (OBD-II PIDs), which is the code used to request engine data. This means that where one car reports seat belt data another car could report an open door.
- Seat belt data is not always transmitted automatically. Sometimes, seat belt data broadcasted voluntarily, while at other times the data needs to be requested from the engine computer. Further, sometimes data is only reported once when the state changes. The GO device needs to be able to process all circumstances that seat belt data is presented in.
- Seat belt data can be very “bouncy.” It often tends to jump around for the first few seconds of turning on the ignition before it finally settles to the correct value. One would not expect 20+ buckled and unbuckled events within the first few seconds of turning the ignition on. This means that telematics devices must determine what the correct seat belt data is once it settles.
- Drivers are not consistent in wearing seat belts. Some drivers do not use seat belts or use them incorrectly, while others use it in an unusual manner, such as taking it off in the middle of trips or buckling them behind their back. Taking into account unusual driver behavior also makes it challenging to verify seat belt data.
When it comes to seat belt data, Geotab goes the extra mile to obtain seat belt information. Geotab’s GO device employs a complex detection and verification algorithm to combat these difficulties in order to cater to as many vehicles as possible. The GO device will report data it believes is seat belt data, but only when a piece of data passes the verification process will Geotab start reporting seat belts.
Detecting and verifying seat belt data
The GO device offers an “all-in-one” solution for obtaining seat belt data, but must go through varying stages in the seat belt detection process, including:
- Scanning through all the broadcasted data to test all the various seat belt requests.
- Identifying possible seat belt data to detect if it is, in fact, seat belt data and not some other piece of data such as the driver door opening.
- Skipping false data and returning to search for another piece of accurate seat belt data.
- Accounting for various random seat belt events such as:
- Drivers unbuckling their seat belt to deliver a package but leaving the ignition on
- Drivers unbuckling at high speeds to get something out of their pockets
- Drivers buckling up before the ignition is turned on
- Drivers unbuckling after the ignition is off
- Drivers unbuckling before coming to a complete stop
Geotab’s detection system caters for many of these events to verify seat belt data prior to it being reported to the customer. The GO device processes when unbuckled and buckled events occur during the trip and uses other pieces of engine data before the device decides how likely it is that this piece of data is truly seat belt data.
How do you implement seat belt policies in your fleet?
Implementing seat belt policies doesn’t have to be complicated. With Geotab’s reporting functions, you can simply make regular seat belt checks a part of your regular data analysis routine:
- Turn on the seat belt rule in MyGeotab to track violations
- Set up driver feedback to alert employees when they drive without a seat belt
- Download the Top 5 Seatbelt Violations Report from the Geotab Marketplace
Let your drivers know that seat belt safety is a top priority and connect with drivers who are reporting to not be wearing seat belts. This provides a great opportunity to develop training around the benefits of wearing seat belts and help combat the misconceptions of seat belt safety. You can also use dashboard cameras to enforce the policy as needed.
Geotab is always enhancing the platform, including adding new seat belt data for more models, makes and years. The detection and verification process is continuously being updated to account for new seat belt information and the different ways seat belts can behave in vehicles and fleets.
You can use Geotab to manage seat belts, driver safety and much more. To learn more, explore our fleet safety solutions.
If you have questions or want to hear what others are saying about fleet safety, visit the Geotab Community.
Originally published on January 2, 2015.
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Paul Ciolek currently leads the embedded systems teams that works on logging vehicle data using Geotab’s telematics data.
Geotab's blog posts are intended to provide information and encourage discussion on topics of interest to the telematics community at large. Geotab is not providing technical, professional or legal advice through these blog posts. While every effort has been made to ensure the information in this blog post is timely and accurate, errors and omissions may occur, and the information presented here may become out-of-date with the passage of time.
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