According to Edmunds.com, Ford launched the first inflatable rear seatbelts in the 2011 Ford Explorer. Safety was the main goal, especially for children and the elderly. Other automakers, including Mercedes and Volvo, are set to follow. Seatbelt safety is something every parent should know.
“The advanced restraint system is designed to help reduce head, neck and chest injuries for rear-seat passengers, often children and older passengers who can be more vulnerable to such injuries,” Ford said in a press release.
The inflatable seatbelt is thicker than the conventional ones. They deploy in milliseconds when a crash occurs and are supposed to lessen the impact by distributing the crash force energy across five times more of the rider’s torso than a traditional belt, the carmaker says. However, safety concerns have been raised, and parents should be cautious about using the inflatable seatbelts with young children.
The concern right now is a lack of research rather than specific mishaps. Especially with restraint seats, manufacturers do not know how inflatable seat belts affect the safety of the occupants- they could damage the booster or alter its performance in adverse ways.
Currently, multiple child seat manufacturers including Angel Guard, Baby Trend, Britax, and Chicco do not permit the use of inflatable seatbelts with any of their products (this is according to a listing compiled by Safekids.org, dated June 5, 2012). The manufacturers instead recommend moving the booster to a position that has a standard three-point seatbelt (inflatable seatbelts are typically not offered on the center seat).
For full details, parents can contact child restraint manufacturers to find out if their seats are compatible with inflatable seatbelts- The National Child Passenger Safety Board maintains a contact list of child restraint manufacturers.
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