Research Project

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Development of a Low-Cost Device to Increase Safety Belt Use

Goal

To develop a low-cost, easily-installed device to increase the use of safety belts by commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers, thereby increasing CMV safety.

Background

Safety belts are the single most effective injury prevention component of highway vehicles in use today. Although Section 392.16 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations requires CMV drivers to wear safety belts, thirty-five percent of the 547 CMV drivers who died in CMV crashes in 2011 were not wearing a safety belt. A 2008 U.S. Department of Transportation survey showed that the average rate for safety belt use for CMV drivers of Class 7 and 8 CMVs and buses was 72 percent. This is a significant improvement from the start of the program in 2003, when the combined rate was 48 percent. However, it is still behind the greater-than-80-percent usage rate for passenger vehicle drivers.

The Phase I Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) study was launched to evaluate the feasibility of implementing a shift-interlock delay device with learning curve software to increase seatbelt usage on large commercial vehicles. Results from a small-scale deployment of the device during the Phase I study were quite promising and showed that with further modifications to the software algorithms and hardware, it would be possible to improve seatbelt compliance on large commercial vehicles in a user-friendly manner. Participation in the SBIR Program is Congressionally-directed.

Summary

Phase II of this SBIR project originally intended to pursue the development and full testing of the shift-interlock device along with a prototype accelerator pedal resistance device and learning curve software. Due to complications with the automatic transmission, the shift-interlock was replaced with a cruise control interlock. Drivers who are not using the seat belt will be prevented from using cruise control. It is anticipated that data from the Phase II multi-vehicle study will demonstrate a noticeable increase in seatbelt usage among commercial vehicle drivers.

The cruise control interlock, accelerator resistance device and data acquisition system have been installed on three over-the-road tractors at a large fleet operating in the Midwest. The tractors will be rotated through several drivers.

Outcomes

A marketable product that would help carriers to ensure that drivers use their safety belts. This system could be implemented either by the vehicle manufacturers as an original equipment manufacturer device or by fleet owners as an aftermarket installation for existing vehicles.

Milestones

June 2011: Project kick-off.
April 2013: Testing and reporting concludes.
June 2013: Final Report submitted.

Funding

FY 2009: $250,000 - FMCSA Research and Technology
FY 2010: $27,000 - FMCSA Research and Technology
FY 2011: $78,000 - FMCSA Research and Technology

Final report under Agency review.

Status

Phase I work is completed. Phase II contract was awarded in June 2013.

Contractor

The Tenik Group

Updated: Friday, January 24, 2014