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NHTSA Announces Upgraded Rule To Require Lap/Shoulder Safety Belts For Rear Center Seats in Passenger Vehicles

December 9, 2004; The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced a final rule requiring that rear center seats in all new passenger vehicles be equipped with lap/shoulder safety belts.

All passenger vehicles will be required to comply with the new rule by 2008 when NHTSA estimates that the change will result in 10 to 23 fewer highway fatalities per year, and 245 to 495 fewer injuries. It comes in response to a Congressional mandate, known as "Anton's Law," passed to increase child passenger safety and to encourage the use of booster seats by older children.

"This rule will greatly improve safety for both children and older people," said Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D., NHTSA Administrator. "One huge advantage is that lap/shoulder belts can be used with belt-positioning booster seats, making the rear center seat the safest place for older children."

Since 1989, NHTSA has required that all rear window-side seats in new passenger vehicles be equipped with lap/shoulder belts. At this point, 23 percent of new passenger cars, along with 51 percent of new vans and light trucks (SUVs and pickups), are only equipped with lap belts for use by rear center seat passengers.

Besides cars and light trucks, the new rule applies to 12- and 15-passenger vans. Side-facing seats are exempt. The rule will be phased in by manufacturers, with half of model year 2006 passenger vehicles offering the lap/shoulder safety belts; increasing to 80 percent of vehicles in model year 2007 and 100 percent in model year 2008.

The final rule can be viewed here onNHTSA’s website.