Washington, D.C. – KidsAndCars.org and The Center for Auto Safety filed suit in federal court today to compel the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to implement a law passed by Congress in 2012, and issue a standard requiring a rear seat safety belt warning system.
The law, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), required DOT to issue a final safety standard no later than October 2015, which would amend the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) to provide a safety belt reminder system for rear seats. No rule has yet been proposed, let alone issued in final form.
Nearly 1,000 unrestrained rear seat passengers were killed in 2015 alone. Children are particularly at risk. At least 343 children age 15 and under who were not using seat belts were killed in 2015, the last year for which data is available.
NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2015 (DOT HS 812 384)
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recognizes the value of seat belts, stating on its website that 13,941 lives were saved in 2015 by these safety devices. NHTSA has even created and distributed public service announcements stating that, “Parents need regular and salient reminders to consistently ensure seat belt compliance for themselves and their tween children.”
DOT Traffic Safety Marketing website
. Yet, when given the statutory directive to require that every new car has a “regular and salient reminder” (for example: an audible warning) about rear seat safety belts for passengers, NHTSA has failed to act.
“To have to bring a lawsuit in federal court to compel NHTSA to simply write a regulation required by law - one that is widely recognized as having significant lifesaving potential - is, to use a word, sad,” said Jason Levine, the new executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. “Instead of fulfilling its job as an expert safety agency on behalf of all consumers, NHTSA has spent five years hitting the snooze button. Hopefully, this action spurs a sense of urgency for something so noncontroversial.”
“The importance of seat belts in saving lives is indisputable. This is one area where the government, auto industry and safety groups completely agree. Everything possible should be done to ensure that all passengers are correctly restrained all the time, on every ride,” said Janette Fennell, KidsAndCars.org founder and president. “As the NHTSA safety campaign states,
Never Give Up Until They Buckle Up, we too cannot give up until this law passed by Congress is implemented,” she added.
A recent report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) confirmed the need for such a warning system. IIHS found up to 28 percent of adults surveyed admitted not wearing their seat belt in the rear seat all the time and of those, 4 out of 5 say that when they take short trips or travel by taxi or ride-hailing service, they frequently do not wear a seat belt. The same report noted that unrestrained passengers in the rear seat were almost 8 times as likely to sustain a serious injury in a crash as restrained rear seat occupants.
IIHS Rear Seat Belt Survey
The complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief was brought in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and is titled Kids and Cars, Inc., and the Center for Auto Safety vs. Chao and NHTSA.
The organizations are being represented in the case by the Washington, D.C. public interest firm, Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks.
Founded in 1996, KidsAndCars.org is the only national nonprofit child safety organization dedicated solely to preventing injuries and deaths of children in and around vehicles. KidsAndCars.org promotes awareness among parents, caregivers and the general public about the dangers to children, including backover and frontover incidents, and heatstroke, from being unknowingly left in a vehicle. The organization works to prevent tragedies through data collection, education and public awareness, policy change and survivor advocacy. For more information visit
The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s leading independent non-profit organization providing consumers a voice for auto safety, quality, and fuel economy. Over the last 47 years the Center has successfully led the fight for lemon laws in every state, airbags in every vehicle, and recall repairs being made at no cost to the consumer. For more information, visit