By on February 12, 2011


While I do think that the early 1990s produced some great cars, the US government-mandated automatically-deployed shoulder belts of the era (for vehicles without then-optional airbags) were utterly maddening. When the mechanisms went bad— as they often did— you had no shoulder belt or, perhaps even worse, a belt that deployed and retracted constantly during a drive; I experienced this once in a Mazda 323 and was hoping for a quick, painless nuclear war to remove me from the planet by the end of the drive. However, the American driving public had become mostly pro-seat-belt by that time, what with the debunking of the “you want to be thrown clear from the wreck” myth, and public outcry over automatic belts was limited to some minor grumbling. This was most definitely not in 1974, when all new cars and light trucks sold in the United States featured DOT-mandated interlocks that prevented engine starting unless driver and front-passenger belts were fastened; widespread outrage blowtorched the ears off of every congressman in the country, and the House killed the starter-interlock requirement late in the year.

I was 8 years old at the time, and because my parents had no ’74 model-year vehicles (having purchased a ’72 Chevrolet Beauville passenger van and a pair of ’73 Fiat 128s just before the fateful year) I wasn’t aware of the starter-interlock feature; I do, however, recall the godawful seat-belt buzzers in the Fiats, which would be triggered whenever the car hit a bump (my horror/fascination with such buzzers led to an unfortunately incident with the Alameda County Bomb Squad about a decade later). It was when I started driving and wrenching on terrible beater cars in the early 1980s that I encountered the nightmare of the starter interlock; most of my car-equipped peers were driving hand-me-down Malaise Era subcompacts— Colts, Pintos, Corollas, and Vegas were most popular, because their parents had been counting the minutes until they could finally pawn off those much-loathed heaps on the young’uns— and I had to hot-wire around the interlocks in a couple of my friends’ 1974 machines to get them to start at all. Mike Davis wrote up a pretty readable piece on the subject for The Detroit Bureau, but I suggest slogging through this dry-as-Mojave-sand academic piece on the subject. The numbers paint a vivid picture: 7% of drivers of buzzer-equipped 1973 vehicles in the study wore lap and shoulder belts, while 48% in the ’74 vehicles buckled up… and, no doubt, plotted revolution (the other 52% must have gone straight to their mechanics and had their interlock systems disabled, or else they unfastened their belts as soon as the engine got going). So, what do we learn from this? Nanny-state big government forcing their evil plans down the throats of the population, with Brezhnev and Nader chuckling evilly in the background? Or a population too goddamn stupid to protect themselves? Both?

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76 Comments on “1974: Seat Belt Starter Interlocks Piss Off More People Than Watergate Scandal...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Interlocks like that are the equivilent of slitting your throat to stop a nosebleed. 

    People needed to be educated but if you don’t want to protect yourself, that’s your business.  I have a 49 year old female colleauge who still believes the “thrown clear is safer” theory.  The only thing that annoys me about that is that if we have to go somewhere for business and she drives, most of the vehicles that the school district posseses buzz every 5 min because she doesn’t have the steatbelt fastened (if she’s in the drivers seat.)  The two of us have to drive 5 hours to Phx in approximately a week and I’m praying she lets me drive just so I don’t have to hear that damn buzzer. 

    • 0 avatar
      rjw52

      If the car is a Ford, buckling and unbuckling the driver’s seatbelt should kill the repeating buzzer until the key is turned off. Check the owners’s manual for the car – there may be a procedure to disable the repeating buzzer entirely. It’s probably under “Safety Restraints” or something like that.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      Good luck, Dan…many newer vehicles chime when the passenger is unbelted, as well.
       
      It sort of hacks me off that your colleague chooses to practice her freedom of choice in a taxpayer-purchased vehicle…and then if she suffers more severe injuries in an accident because she’s not belted, the taxpayer also pays for her worker’s compensation claim.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      My mother trainned me well.  She wouldn’t put the car in gear unless all of us kids were belted up.  (The funny thing is this colleage is likely too large to be thrown clear – I mean fitting through the damn windsheild.) 

    • 0 avatar

      Ask her what she thinks would happen to her if her head hit the pavement.

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

      The two of us have to drive 5 hours to Phx in approximately a week

      Ah, the Gallup, Holbrook, Heber, Payson, Phoenix trip.  Unless you want to stay on I-40 and see the giant crater in Winslow.  And don’t forget to feed the deer in Williams if you go to Flagstaff.

      I used to stay quite a bit at the Clarion at I-10 and Elliott when I flew for a regional airline in PHX.  I haven’t stayed there since early ’07 but they had a buffet style hot breakfast and hot dinner included with the price of the room.  Nice people.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      Ask her what’s going to happen to YOU when she turns into a (guessing) 250lb missle.

    • 0 avatar
      Mehdi

      My uncle does the same thing for different reason, he says that the seat belt irritates him!!.. so here is his trick, he locks the seat belt and then sits ( so the belt is behind him, apparently it doesn’t irritate his back!!). This way he gets rid of the buzz and fools the cops as well … maybe you wanna offer that to your friend…

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Dan, my friend, assert your knowledge of the law! I hope you will be the driver, at least you will do the right thing. My old friend in Missouri doesn’t wear seat belts, either. I try to encourage him to wear them, but nothing I can do about it. Unfortunately, the passenger seat belt on his old J-10 doesn’t work too well, either. I feel as if I put my life out on a limb, because he still drives like we were still in high school and I just pray earnestly and hang on for dear life!

    • 0 avatar
      Michal

      The ‘get thrown clear of the wreck’ does work.  First, you have your face crushed against the steering wheel.  Then your chest and internal organs are rearranged as you hit the steering wheel and dashboard.  You then enjoy being projected head first through the windscreen, and finally you come to a peaceful stop face first at X mph into whatever you have happened to hit.
      The ‘seat belts kill people’ crowd often latch onto the 1 in 100 case where seat belts really did contribute to injury or death, and conveniently ignore the other cases where they helped avoid a fatality or more severe injury.
      The ‘it’s my right not to wear seat belts, it doesn’t hurt anyone else’ crowd are wrong too.  Most people who are not properly restrained in their vehicle will have more severe injuries.  Sometimes this will lead to long time hospitalisation and permanent disability.  Who pays for the resultant higher insurance premiums?  Everyone does.  Whether a person does or does not wear their seat belt is everyone’s business.

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      That whole “getting thrown clear” theory only works if you get broadsided and you’re not sitting on the side that gets hit or you roll your rig and either you stay fully contained, or you get thrown completely out of the vehicle and you land where your rig was, not where it is going.
      Funny thing with a lot of the people who have this theory is that when they’re shown footage of, say, that guy who was going full tilt the wrong way on I-5 in his white 2007 F-150 and got into a multi-car accident and more or less walked away, they ALWAYS SAY “How’d he survive that?” AIRBAGS AND SEATBELTS, PEOPLE!
       

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      On my daughter’s first long-distance transport as an EMT, they were on I-90 in eastern Washington. An oncoming Dodge pickup ran into the median and rolled repeatedly. The unbelted driver was a little farther out the door window on each roll, finally clearing the vehicle on the fifth or sixth roll. They stopped but there was nothing to do but call 911.
      Even if she hadn’t already been a seatbelt user, that experience would have done the job. But she grew up in a household where her father had been a seatbelt user to the point of installing them in several 50′s and 60′s cars that didn’t already have them.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      A couple of the customers at work will leave their seat belts buckled and sit on top of them, even fewer will jam a seatbelt clip into the buckle to buckle to avoid the constant chimes. The later amuses me in their cleverness to avoid annoyance but overall stupidity in not using a safety harness.

  • avatar
    tced2

    This was a requirement put into law by NHTSA without the “help” of Congress.  A law put into place by a bureaucracy without a vote.  The Congress had to pass a law to repeal it – using a vote. As the article indicates – so many folks were irritated by this “safety” feature that they told Congress and Congress acted.
     
    I owned a 1974 Camaro with these interlocks.  I never had any real trouble with it but it could be fooled by a package/briefcase sitting in the passenger seat.  There was a “get out of jail free” button under the hood that could be pressed to let you start the car – just one time.  The more permanent solution was to unplug the sensor (underneath the seat) and then it didn’t bother you anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      GMs were set up so as to be easily disabled as you pointed out.
      Disconnect one connector under the driver seat and it was like the interlock was never there.
      I used to charge people 20 bucks for 10 seconds work – although I made sure they never saw how easy it was.

    • 0 avatar
      Tommy Boy

      >>”This was a requirement put into law by NHTSA without the “help” of Congress.  A law put into place by a bureaucracy without a vote.  The Congress had to pass a law to repeal it – using a vote. As the article indicates – so many folks were irritated by this “safety” feature that they told Congress and Congress acted.”

      There’s a book called “Liberal Fascism” (don’t let the provocative title dissuade you, it’s a serious study) that describes the origins of American progressives (in Europe their kindred spirits were Italian / German fascists).

      Progressives are utopians who believe that we can create a better man, and better society, if they (self-proclaimed “best and brightest”) dictate to us from above.  The nanny-state bureaucrats who gave us seat belt interlocks for “our own good” are emblematic of the breed and their methods. But they were amateurs compared to today.

      Hold on, for the Obama administration (e.g., Obamacare) is progressive-fascist on steroids; hence the telling us (and before long dictating to us what we can eat, such as trans-fat / salt restrictions); what we can drive; etc. etc. etc.  Just Google “Cass Sunstein” and “Nudge” if you don’t believe me.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    Some very early 1975 cars were equipped with the interlocks too. I bought a used 1975 Duster 360 at the end of the ’70s and while it didn’t have the functioning interlocks by then, the warnings were prominently displayed on the driver’s sun visor.

    • 0 avatar
      turbobrick

      That, or Chrysler had a warehouse full of the sun visors with the instructions sewn on them and didn’t want to throw them away. I hear a bunch of the first model year Eagle Premiers were sold with radiator shrouds that proclaimed “Renault by AMC”.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      Unlikely. The Premier was an entirely different situation where a company changed hands just as a car was reaching production. The seat belt law was overturned in October 1974, a few months after 1975 model year began. It was a long time ago, but I think there were wires under my seats, and the car definitely didn’t have power seats.

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    What do we learn from this?  That Big Brother was a little ahead of his time.
     
    The car-buying public, in 1974, was having none of it.  And they reacted, loudly and quickly.  And Congress in 1974 was still respecting of the voters’ opinions.
     
    Times have changed; and the public has been “conditioned.”  Today we accept as-bad and worse; and Congress has gotten so used to thumbing its nose at the voters, our alleged-representatives are getting Carpal Tunnel from the motion.
     
    We need to get some SPINE; get government OUT of our homes and garages and workplaces.  If someone wants a small car, or an electric car, or a car they can’t start without satisfying an interlock – they can buy it or modify it.  But that some people want it for OTHER people; and have enough pull or power to make the requirement law…is not appropriate for a free society.
     
    FWIW, I use the belts; always have.  They’ve saved my life twice.  But I REALLY bristle when Officialdom tells me that I MUST do something.  Something that affects nobody but myself.  Something that I must do on pain of traffic citation.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      My one memory of this debacle is that it has been the only time in my lifetime that Congress did something quickly, with little argument. We’re talking about as much discussion and argument as they used in declaring war on Japan 8 Dec 41.

      And I wonder if the voting public will ever have Congress scared enough to do something that quickly again.

    • 0 avatar
      turbobrick

      Syke,
       
      the other instance of this would be the national Do-Not-Call registry. I remember a news story about some congresscritters getting spammed by telemarketers and *boom*, two weeks later the whole thing was set up and running.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Seat belt/starter interlocks, clutch pedal/starter interlocks, brake/shift lever interlocks on automatics: these are at the top of my hate list regarding misguided attempts at idiot-proofing. And I’m looking at you, Audi 5000 drivers who can’t tell the difference between the brake and throttle pedals: you forced this on us with denial of your own culpability and your misguided lawsuits.

    Oh yeah, for those who drive first generation Mazda MPVs or have friends with same, a Cat Eye handlebar plug inserted into the “emergency shift lever release” hole fits perfectly, can be tightened for a permanent fit, and will completely bypass the interlock system.

    Having installed an aftermarket 3 point belt kit into my first car, I am part of the group which staunchly opposes mandatory seat belt laws; I do not want to protect idiots from themselves. Mandatory safety equipment laws for the transport of infants and children are exempt from my opposition, as they need more time to come to a decision for themselves regarding their personal safety and well being.

    • 0 avatar
      thebeelzebubtrigger

      “Seat belt/starter interlocks, clutch pedal/starter interlocks, brake/shift lever interlocks on automatics: these are at the top of my hate list regarding misguided attempts at idiot-proofing.”
       
      Fortunately, the buzzers and interlocks are almost always easily defeated on cars made prior to 2004 or so. After that, I’m not so sure. One of the first things I do when I buy a car is leave the key in with the lights on  and door open so I can track down and remove the buzzer/chime/bell(s).
      I always wear my seatbelt while driving anyway, but the  tones they chose for the alerts are often really annoying.  If my lights are on it’s because I want them on, same for my door being open, etc.
       

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      My first car (1982 Celebrity) did not have a head light reminder.  The result for a 16 year old driver?  Two dead batteries caused by lights being left on.  The buzer for keys in the ignition had died many years before.  The result?  Locked my keys in the car twice.  I did learn eventually and now have only locked my keys in a car when extremely mentally distracted, like during my divorce. 

      I never worry about seat belt buzzers cause I got in the habit of putting the sucker on before I even twist the key. 

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      From the Sniglets lexicon:

      Ignisecond: that interval of time between when you lock and close your car’s door and your brain says, “my keys are in the car”.

  • avatar
    voodoojoo

    So inarguably a large portion of the ignition interlock debate focused on freedom and freedom of choice. Senator james Buckley stated on Sept. 11, 1974 “I view such coercive measures as the interlock as an intolerable usurpation by Government of an individual’s rights in the guise of self-protection.”, but as J. Mashaw and D. Harfest note in The Struggle for Auto Safety (a must-read on the subject):
    But [the] sober and “socially responsible” position crumbled before the freedom fighter’ fusillade. The interlock had generated a powerful arsenal of political images. An estimated three hundred thousand vehicles in the 1974 production run had an interlock malfunction of some sort…Malfunction horror stories became the order of the day. Ignition interlocks had stranded (or could strand) a motorist on the path of an oncoming train. Women were unable to flee rapists. Parking attendants, who had to buckle up no matter how short the trip, were going nuts. Housewives were buckling up their groceries. Hertz could not obtain sufficient towing services to retrieve malfunctioning vehicles. And in account after account, the family pet, usually a dog, set the lights blinking, buzzers buzzing and interlocks locking. – page 139.
     
    It was a riveting subject, especially the debates in Congress over the paradox of everyone claiming to want to enforce more safety and seatbelts, but that they ought not to have to have them. It is important to remember, though, that in the apparent debate between liberty and safety, the comedy of malfunctioning systems, buckling up dogs and thanksgiving turkeys – it all came together in a very contextualized situation.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    I rather like the idea of seatbelt usage being law, if only for the simple fact that if heaven forfend you should be at fault for an accident where the other driver isn’t wearing a seatbelt, they’re accountable for that. I think that motorcyclists should be mandated to wear helmets for the same reason.

    • 0 avatar

      Alternatively, people could act like they’re in control of a large, fast-moving object in close proximity to vulnerable people and property, and drive accordingly. Blaming the victim is a pretty lame interpretation of taking responsibility.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    My grandparents had a ’74 Monte Carlo with interlocks on it.  They actually seemed to serve their intended purpose; the two of them have buckled up religiously ever since.  I think everyone learns the habit differently, and it can’t really be forced (clearly, given the consumer outrage in ’74).  I’m young enough that it was second nature from the time i was 3 or 4, while it wasn’t until a coworker went through the windshield in a fatal wreck that my dad finally started using a seat belt in the late ’80s.
    The mandatory automatic belts that appeared in the late ’80s were just as bad.  We had a ’91 Camry with motorized belts.  Toyota’s solution at the time was to have an emergency tension release lever on the console in case of an accident, but the belt couldn’t be disconnected…I used to drive my dad crazy by pulling that lever and setting off the warning chime.  Our ’93 Mitsubishi had the standard-style motorized belts with a release by the track on the door frame.  Sure, these systems were effective, but you were screwed if they broke, and they falsely encouraged drivers not to buckle the lap belt.  My favorite example though has to be a friend’s ’91 Protege with a bad contact in the should belt, which resulted in the warning chime sounding during right turns.
     
    Even worse was GM’s solution.  Not only were the door-mounted belts easily defeated (nobody left them buckled, they were just used like regular belts), but they simply weren’t very safe.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Yeah I always look at those old GM belts and think, what happens if the door flies open in an accident?  You’re screwed!

      My grandmother had one of the last Ford Tempos built that had the motorized belts, I was always afraid that the dang thing was going to decapitate me as I came toward me. 

      The thing that amazed me was when Chrysler put airbags in the Dodge Dynasty and Chrysler Fifth Avenue for 1 year (so they could keep selling it) and then cancled the platform.  I always wondered if that was the most cost effective thing to do. 

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      I’m guessing it was for the publicity dividend: after being the staunchest opponent of the mandatory autobelt/airbag fight, Chrysler became the first automaker to have airbags installed across its entire model line.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      Another possible explanation: At some point around 1990, the U.S. government started requiring driver-side airbags in all newly-purchased passenger cars placed into the Federal fleet.
       
      It could be that Chrysler pursued the one-year-only airbag in Dodge Diplomats so that it could continue selling them for military and government agency use. If that’s the case, the Fifth Avenue was a lucky beneficiary by virtue of its shared platform.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      And thanks for the belated memory trigger; automatic belts truly are scary. A friend of mine did not enjoy wearing the automated shoulder belt in her mid 80s Toyota Cressida, so once the mechanism had wrapped it into place, she lifted the shoulder belt and placed it behind her.

      She only forgot to reverse the procedure upon exit once, but I was present for its amusing and horrifying effect. As she opened the door and stepped out of the car, the rapidly retracting belt mechanism wrapped the belt around her neck and dragged her back into the vehicle’s interior. “Hi, how are – WAAUGH! <choke>”

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Those 80′s-early 90′s passive restraints were quite awful especially the GM door mounted belts on the A,J,N,H,W body cars. I’m surprised no one has invented a kit for these cars to move the mount off the door to the pillar to turn it into a normal 3 pc belt. And to think GM actually did offer air bags as an option on 74-76 full size cars, oh the tyranny of the bean counters.

      Additionally in the late 80′s-90′s passive restraints were a cheapo way for the manufacturers to get out of installing air bags which only Mercedes, Porsche and some Ford Tempos had standard at the time. I remember early 80′s Rabbits were one of the 1st to have them. You just buckeled the belt at the door frame, the lap belt was attached thus giving you a 3pt belt. They also installed an underdash knee pad.

      In the early 90′s Hyundai had to settle a lawsuit related to the passive restraints on the Excel. There was a buckle mounted on the upper door frame, but the geniuses had poorly designed the lap belt part. Apparently there were several neck injuries and who knows, maybe a few decapitations due to the poor design. Forget about an “overreaching” federal government if the manufacturers just designed things correctly in the first place they would save themselves a lot of grief and let the trial bar go after more important corporate maleficence.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Chrysler chose to put airbags in all cars as a marketing thing.  People loathed those motorized belts and Chrysler jumped to offer an alternative.  The passive restraint requirement was technology neutral, as it should be.  Carmakers could chose any system that would fill the letter of the law, and they usually did so with the cheapest system possible.  Chrysler, surprise surprise, thought that spending the money would be to their advantage.  Too bad that they didn’t keep that philosophy up…we would never have had a Sebring!

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      I had a ’93 Cutlass wagon with those infuriating and uncomfortable door belts.  I often wondered if you would find the appropriate belt anchor points (used in 1990 and earlier models) still there if you pulled off the B-pillar trim.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    The motorized belt systems were the worst and GM’s door-mounted seatbelts always annoyed me, thinking they weren’t as safe as standard three-point systems. The early three-point belts that weren’t attached – the shoulder belt was clipped along the headliner paralleling the upper window frame – they weren’t used at all. Used to be, television used to show “Public Service Announcements” about common-sense procedures (common sense – what a concept!) about seatbelt usage, driving courtesy and safety and warnings about smoking, etc. I suppose that’s too much for modern man to handle.

    Trying out my new avatar, too. My 2004 Impala.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      You’re right on target with regard to the separate shoulder belts that were common prior to 1974. I remember my Dad’s 1970 Olds having SIX belts and buckles sticking out from the front bench seat.
       
      Honestly, I think single-buckle, lap-and-shoulder combination belts did more than anything else to make seatbelt usage tolerable…and even then, it took another 20 years or so for a majority of U.S. drivers to buckle up.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      It’s not so much the combined belt but the inertia reel that made shoulder belts viable. I had (and always used) the separate lap and shoulder belts on a 70 Malibu. Big problem was that once the shoulder belt was latched, I couldn’t reach the radio or HVAC controls.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      +1 Steve. I forgot about that “little problem” with the separate shoulder belts.

  • avatar
    obbop

    High percentage of non-compliance with buckle the belt statutes in this area.
     
    Constant flow of news stories about deaths and dreadful injuries after wrecks, solo and multiple vehicles.
     
    Fine.  Weed out the ill-educated placing emotion ahead of logical thinking.
    When I declare a LOT a horde of local deaths.
    A wonderful benefit to nudge up the cumulative local IQ level.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I did what  most 74  owners  did.  Click  the  belt together and   push it in between  the  cushions.  I didnt  start wearing a  belt  until my  kids  bullied   me  into it.
    As for non-compliance, most accounts  of highway fatalities, mention  the die-ee as being  ejected  from  the car.

  • avatar

    In the early ’90s I resisted buying a new car for two years becuase the cars I wanted all had those damn motorized belts. I finally gave in and bought a ’93 Saturn with the motorized belts. They actually never gave me trouble in 11 and a half years. Had they done so, I would have simply disabled them in the on position and put them on manually.
    My parents first had seatbelts installed in the ’57 Chevy, in 1960 or ’61, so it’s always been a habit to put them on.
     

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “My parents first had seatbelts installed in the ’57 Chevy, in 1960 or ’61, so it’s always been a habit to put them on.”

      David: When my dad bought our 1966 Impala in early 1968, it had seatbelts and I’ve used them religiously ever since. When I bought my 1964 Chevy in the USAF, it had no seatbelts, but I installed them immediately.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Occasionally I see an old car on eBay without seatbelts and the first thought that goes through my head is; “if I bought that car I’d immediately have to install seatbelts.” 

      I do like the new avatar, if the avatar pics were bigger I’d tell you to post a pic of your trunk where you swapped the script and lettered “Chevrolet” on the back but you’d never be able to read it with these little pictures.  (PS: was driving past the Ford dealership last night, she glimpsed a new Explorer in the widow.  Her reaction?  “No I like the Flex much better.”) 

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Dan: I tried to show the “Impala” script I had custom-made in mirror chrome (a clear vinyl, foil-backed with peel-off adhesive that was laser-cut) along with the “V6″ emblem just ahead of it, but it doesn’t show well, so I may find something else. I thought of showing the back end with “Chevrolet” on the left and “Impala” on the right, but that wouldn’t show well, either, so I’ll have to think about it for awhile. Maybe I’ll just show the back end like my 1964. Decisions, decisions. Now I know a Flex is in your future!

  • avatar
    AlexG55

    This reminds me- seatbelt buzzers have recently started appearing on cars in Greece. Of course, Greece is one of the countries where buckling up is sometimes taken as an insult to the driver. The solution?
    Auto parts stores are selling seatbelt buckles without the seatbelt attached, that you can buckle in so the buzzer will shut up!

  • avatar
    Hank

    At this point, sitting in front of an exploding steering wheel w/out a seatbelt is, imho, voluntary stupidity.

    Putting your feet up on on the dash in a car with a passenger airbag is the sign of an IQ lower than your shoe size.

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      Yeah.
       
      The airbag is the ultimate Government Safety Device – it makes SURE you buckle up, complying with the law…by placing an explosive charge in your face that will be guaranteed to KILL you if you don’t!
       
      Except for head-on frontal impacts, the kind of accidents that mostly happen to the comatose and the drunk…a driver’s better off with just lap-and-shoulder belts.  And…I’ve never had a Government Pillow go off on me…but I can just IMAGINE what that does to the eardrums, that sudden momentary increase in air pressure in the car.
       
      I value my ears more than I trust government regulators.

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      @JustPassinThru
      Unfortunately, when a drunk crashes into something head on, it’s usually a sober driver with nowhere else to go who gets hit. Drunks have this uncanny habit of going into the wrong lane while going over bridges or in areas of dual guardrails.
      If you worry about your ears or getting bag burn on your face, you can disable the airbag without much hassle.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Hank,

      I’m assuming you’re a bit younger than me. I can still remember, back in the early-mid 70′s, that the big argument pushing airbags was . . . . . . . wait for it . . . . . . . . if you allow the government to mandate airbags, you won’t have to wear seatbelts anymore.

      No joke. At the time, I was working at an iron foundry that was doing some kind of ductile iron casting for Ford for the early airbag installations.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      Syke, I remember that, as well. Then when airbags became common (and later mandatory) in the 1990s, there were quite a number of advertisements reminding us that the “SRS” embossed on the airbag stood for “supplemental restraint system.”

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      @JustPassinThru

      Government Safety Device? Government Pillow? Are you for real?!

      Tell you what: If you distrust government regulators so much, you probably ought to stay off the Government Roads, avoid being in areas protected by the Government Military, not expect the Government Police to show up when you’re being mugged, and definitely not use the Government Internet.

      As a matter of fact, maybe you should try Somalia. I hear it’s a paradise, free of nasty government intrusion, and where a good hard-workin’ man can make his own mark.

      I mean… government pillow? Better off with lap and… OK, I just can’t. Please tell me you’re just trolling. Please, please, please.

      Oh, and one other thing – if you distrust airbags because the government requires them, shouldn’t you also distrust seat belts? After all, what if there’s a fire, and you’re knocked unconscious and can’t get out because the seat belt is latched?…

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      PeriSoft:
      “Tell you what: If you distrust government regulators so much, you probably ought to stay off the Government Roads, avoid being in areas protected by the Government Military, not expect the Government Police to show up when you’re being mugged, and definitely not use the Government Internet.
      As a matter of fact, maybe you should try Somalia. I hear it’s a paradise, free of nasty government intrusion, and where a good hard-workin’ man can make his own mark.”

      You heard wrong.  The trouble with third-world societies that keeps them poor and backwards… is that there’s no restraint on what government can do to you or with you or require you to do.  Kinda like where we’re heading.

      And that’s all I’m going to say here.  Political debates belong somewhere else.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    IIRC, Congress (legislatively) tuned up the FDA when they banned saccharine (administratively).
    Watch for the EPA to get a similar legislative boot to the throat when new CAFE standards start to bite.

  • avatar

    Car owner/drivers are a just too big a group to be left alone by stupid regulations by bureaucrats and other busybodies.
    Would we have stuck to our trusted horses (a pretty dangerous transportation method, BTW, thanks to the interaction of stupid animals with stupid people and bad luck), would the automobile not have been invented, what would they have done, what would they do now? Still trying to breed horses with inbuilt security features? Mandatory knight’s armors for everyone?

  • avatar
    amca

    I remember sitting in a parking lot on a rainy night with pliers ripping the trim off the inside of my ’89 Escort GT to as to be able to reach the defective mechanism and manually roll the electrically deployed seatbelt back into a position where it would do me some good.  I did not want to get on a rainy freeway at night with no seatbelt, and Uncle Sam’s efforts to make sure I had my seatbelt on were ensuring . . . I couldn’t wear my seatbelt.  Brilliant.
    When I got to the mechanism, I just ripped the wires out and spent the rest of the time I owned the I simply ducked under the belt to put it on.
     
    FU, NHTSA.

  • avatar
    mazder3

    A quick Google book search turned up this November 1973 Popular Science article on Airbags vs Seatbelts, featuring Hal Needham as a test dummy!
    http://books.google.com/books?id=g31WPjolhE4C&lpg=PA84&dq=popular%20science%20airbags&pg=PA84#v=onepage&q=popular%20science%20airbags&f=false

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I was in the 4th grade or so when the 74′s came out but later ended up with a ’74 Chevy Nova with the literal, 3 point belts where the belts were two actual pieces mounted to the buckle with two inertia reels and a fixed shoulder point at the headliner, My Mom’s ’76 Vega has something similar I think and part of the belt went throrugh a plastic guide mounted to the seat back edge and they never stayed on.
     
    Then I recall the one piece belts where the male buckle would slide on the belt strap and you simply brought it over to the buckle mounted to the seat to form a 3 way buckle, much better me things.
     
    That said, my Dad was a safety guy in the Air Force and when they bought a brand new Dodge 330 station wagon in 1964, he had seatbelts mounted in ALL seating positions when by then, the driver and passenger up front got them as required by law. I’ve been a belt user ever since I was old enough to learn about their benefits.
     
    The buzzers and such never bothered me and I don’t recall if the belt sensors worked on the old 74 Chevy I owned as it was about 10 years old when I bought the car and it WAS originally a Gov’t fleet vehicle when my Dad bought it in ’79.
     
    I think the 2 biggest things to help with increasing seat belt usage was the one piece 3pt belts now in use and the adjustable anchors or if fixed, they were low enough to be comfortable. My 92 Ford Ranger truck has the fixed should anchor, but it’s too high for true comfort still and yet, I use them religiously every day.
     
    But really, some people are too stupid for their own good and that’s why I think some regulations are created to help stem the lawsuits etc that arise from such incidences and these idiots try to sue.

  • avatar
    Roland

    It takes time for the safety culture to take hold.

    My father and grandfathers regarded seat belts as something of an insult. My grandfather disconnected the buzzer in his Volvo 164E, and my Dad didn’t start wearing a seat belt until the 1980′s.

    Travelling in Egypt a few years ago, I found that cab drivers were actually removing all the seat belts from their cars. I would get in and instinctively grope for the receiver. The driver would then glance over and laugh. One of them even gestured meaningfully to some calligraphy on the dashboard, presumably a line from the Koran. “A man’s life is written, as a page in a book!”

    Luckily Cairo traffic is very slow. The cabbies are actually pretty brilliant drivers, too.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      “A man’s life is written, as a page in a book!”
       
      If such an ignorant statement was really true, safety equipment would have made zero impact (sorry) on death rates.
       
      All the talk about the government idiots, well the safety of modern cars speaks otherwise.  There is no way in hell that cars would be anywhere as safe as they are today if the manufacturers weren’t forced to make them so.  What would happen if you decided to end safety regulations today, and let the public decide?  Well, some vehicle classes, like minivans, might soldier on with the present technology (kiss goodbye any improvements, though). But many items would disappear as carmakers tried to drive down the cost of cars by stripping out equipment and attracting buyers with lower prices.  Those who never had a serious accident would likely fall for the lower price bait.   Decades of progress would be erased.  So, while the regulation trip for safety, emissions, and fuel economy may of had many bumps, the destination was well worth it.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    “the American driving public had become mostly pro-seat-belt by that time, what with the debunking of the “you want to be thrown clear from the wreck” myth…”

    In that case, why did 72% of them not wear belts if they weren’t forced to? If you’re right, and even 51% of people had become pro-seat belt, one has to wonder about the ones who were pro-seat belt but still didn’t wear them…

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    This drives me crazy in China….

    I regularly utilize “drivers” to get me around in China. (I don’t drive here) 
    They always have the rear seat belts shoved under the seat. 
    They say “The back seat is safe and does not need seat belts”.

    Even my employees think the same on their personal cars and when they travel with others. 
    The only reason they use the front seat belts is to avoid being pulled over by the police.   
    This is common thinking in the places I have visited in China. 
     
    Maybe Bertel can chime in if he found the same thinking in his China adventures. 

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I had the damn interlock in my ’74 Road Runner, and about 45 minutes after I picked it up, I was unhooking the sensor for it. What nonsense. I’ve always worn a seatbelt anyway, so it was totally pointless.
    I do have a friend though who was one of the “lucky” people who actually survived a terrible wreck because he didn’t have a seatbelt on. He’s been a parapelegic for 40+ years now, but if he hadn’t gone out the windshield, his car’s engine would have crushed him. He says it was a good trade off, loss of use of legs versus death. Back when it happened, his parents were told he would likely only live about 10-12 years. Obviously, the doctors were wrong. His current car is a 2000 WS6 Trans Am, and it’s holding up very well. His condition helps get him out of being ticketed for driving the way he does. Oddly, he doesn’t scare me to ride with him at all, even though he seems to be unable to drive less than 15 over the speed limit.

  • avatar

    I’ve been saved by belts at least once, but wish I could turn off the chime in the Acura MDX.  If you drive down the street with anyone unbelted the car chimes and brings up a big orange error message in the multifunction dash display.  Push the information button on the wheel and it goes away…for another tenth of a mile.  It does NOT turn off, and will recycle over and over……
    I’d not even want to go near the electrical system in this space shuttle to try to turn it off.
     
     

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Some observations:

    Every time I read about the ’70s seat belt-ignition interlocks, people always cite the junky ones in domestic cars and never the ones in, say, Toyotas or Datsuns. This may be the only time in history when Detroit’s malaise-era incompetence was a benefit to the public.

    My folks had a ’92 Corolla with the motorized shoulder belt. I never thought it was any big deal since the shoulder belt was latched at the door. Every time I drove it, I’d climb in and close the door, pull the lap belt across and latch it, then grab the shoulder belt (conveniently between the seats) and pull it up to the door and latch that. Do that in reverse order to get out.

    My ’92 Sentra has a regular 3-point belt, except the reel is at the bottom and the whole thing is built into the door. Again, no big deal, although the retractor is kinda lazy these days.

  • avatar
    K5ING

    In a story that sounds like it came right out of “The Big Leboski”, back in the mid 80′s, a friend I worked with owned a ’74 Torino 4dr.  And yes, he loved to bowl.  He came out of the bowling alley one night after league play, tossed his ball and bag into the passenger seat, and tried to start his car.  It wouldn’t start.  We all gave our two cents worth and tried to help him start it, but it wouldn’t.
     
    He had it towed to a shop, who kept the car for a week because they couldn’t figure it out either.  Bowling night came around, and he dropped by the shop to get his ball.  He got it out of the car, started talking to the mechanics about what the problem might be, and they tried to start it again.  It started right up!!
     
    Yea, he was pissed!!!
     

  • avatar
    MarcKyle64

    I loathed the motorized shoulder belt in my Dad’s ’80 Rabbit and how I felt like I was going to be strangled by the thing.  The belt would be lying benignly by the dash and I’d sit down. As soon as the door shut, it would start running up the track towards my face.  I’d always lean back trying to delay my execution and then it would go down the track towards my shoulder and stop.  I knew it was lurking there smug in it’s satisfaction at having unnerved me.   I hated taking dates in that car because having a mechanical strangler tracking towards your femme’s face SO put her mind at ease and open towards the night’s events.  I’m sure that many, many dates don’t remember me, but remember my car.

  • avatar
    Ion

    I absolutely loathe early 90′s automatic belts. They were clearly designed for only 2 body types, neither of which I belong to as the belts always chop me in the neck they slide into position.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Having driven through cars of that era, I missed owning a seat belt interlock equipped car.  I replaced my ’73 Mazda RX-2 with a ’78 Accord, eventually supplemented by an ’80 Audi.  IIRC the big issue with the interlocks was their extremely high malfunction rate .  .  . so, it wasn’t so much resentment at a “big brother” intrusion into “personal liberty” as resentment against the forced introduction of bleeding edge technology, which wasn’t ready for prime time.  That was a characteristic of the era, as emission controls also forced the introduction of “bleeding edge” technology on engines that both made them hard to start, run poorly, generate reduced output for their size (I am still amazed at some of the low HP numbers generated by early “de-smogged” V-8s, as compared to their earlier, non-controlled ancestors), and, incidentally, use more fuel.  I seriously question – given the fact that most of these engines seemed to operate with varying degrees of malfunction most of the time — whether they, in fact reduced emissions.
    For some reason, my dad was a “use the seatbelt” guy.  Beginning with our ’63 Chevrolet (the first car I drove), they all had belts.  Lap belts only until the ’70 Volvo, which had a 3-point shoulder/lap belt combination that worked very well and was very easy to use.  I used them consistently, not because I was an obedient soul, but because they had the beneficial side effect of keeping my butt in the seat while I was doing my best to get the car sideways.
    I never understood the reasons that serious drivers carped about seatbelts.  AFAIC, they are an indispensable driving accessory.
    In fact, the few cars I drove (rentals) that had the motorized shoulder belt, I hated, because the belt was a failure at what I believed was its most important purpose — keeping your butt in the seat while you were hooning around.
    As far as the legal side of it goes, to my knowledge, no state statute or court has ruled that an accident victim’s failure to use a seatbelt is contributory negligence (which would either relieve or  the at-fault other driver from the duty to pay for the victim’s injuries or force the victim to bear a part of the cost of those injuries).  So yeah, if I run into you and am at fault, but your injuries are 10x worse than they would have been had you been using a belt (e.g. you were “thrown clear” and into the path of an oncoming car), I’m the one who has to pay.

  • avatar
    CompWizrd

    Chrysler has a shifter interlock on their Grand Caravan now.. you can’t shift out of park without your foot on the brake AND your seatbelt buckled up.. if you plug and unplug the seatbelt you can bypass that though.  I don’t know if it tracks the passenger belt as well.

  • avatar
    Towncar

    I had the bag on a ’95 Town Car pop on me in a wreck two years ago.  it actually worked perfectly and I only had a little bruising where one corner of it hit me.  The TC was totaled.
    JustPassinThru, I don’t recall any excessive noise or air pressure issues.  What I do recall vividly is the huge amount of noxious smoke that came (I assume) from igniting the charge that inflates the bags.  It was hideous and choking.  If I hadn’t been able to get out of the car, I really wonder whether that stuff would have killed or injured me.  I’ve never seen this issue mentioned in any article on air bags.
     

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    My dad bought a new 75 ford wagon with the starter interlock. As soon as he got it home he reached under the seat and unplugged the connector, disabling it. A person had to pretty much be a moron to not know how to do it.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    My father required that we use seat belts back in 1967.
    So, I didn’t have to be coerced.

    That said, my experience with belts ran the gamit of being forced to deal with separate shoulder belts and extra buckles in some older cars. There was no tentioners back then. The auto companies met the letter of the seat belt laws without actually embracing them. As a seat belt wearer, it was impractical to use older seat belts, but I alwasy felt naked without one.

    I never had a 1974 car. So I was spared the impracticality of the interlock system. Considering the quality of that era of cars, they probably weren’t very good. Starting your car is important, so crafting a system that could disable it is not a smart thing to do. Once again, government politics fail in the real world. Blaming people or claiming that they are either stupid or ignorant is rather stupid and ignorant. Grouping everyone is always wrong as a general rule. Daily life does not fit what academics believe it fits, usually. Blaming your neighbors for not accepting government edits exposes you as someone who may not completely understand the liberties and freedoms you enjoy.

    Seat belts improved with the three point belts. It made using them a lot simpler. I believe this was probably the best way of dealing with the need for drivers to buckle up. I also think this was the break through that increased seat belt usage, not mandatory seat belt laws. It takes a generation of usage and when you look at a generation ago, you see the modern three point belt as the break through.

    Automatic seat belts were horrible. The GM design was based on an outdated method proposed for Chevrolet Vegas. I found it unbelievable that GM had the nerve to put those archaic useless door mounted belts in their cars. It was simply irresponsible. Seat belts are supposed to keep you in the car if the door opens. GM must have gotten some kind of deal with the federal government for it to so obviously fail to meet this basic standard of safety. The GM belts were supposed to remain BUCKLED, and we were supposed to finaggle our way into the car with the belts stretched out from the doors and into our seats without having the belts tangle up around our legs. The design was a sham and should not have been allowed. The automatic belts were not automatic – only the shoulder belt was automatic. You still had to buckle the lap belt manually. This was worse than the pre-automatic belt days because the design was overcomplicated and failed to work too often to have been manufacturered.

    What happened here was the need for the auto manufacturers to meet once again the letter of the federal standards, but not the intention behind the standards. It would have been better had the federal government mandated that new cars phase air bags into production over a three year’s time, leaving the superior manual three point belts in the cars.

    The Feds blew it again. Their regulations failed to meet up with reality. Instead of creating a common sense approach, they forced upon everyone a subpar seat belt design to replace what was a better seat belt design previously manufacturered. The Feds forced all of us to take a step back.

    I never had a problem with mandatory seat belt laws, because I always buckled up. However, after forcing all of us to endure the extra costs of air bags and seat belts, the government finally got around to mandating seat belt usage when it could have mandated seat belt usage decades earlier and prevented all these extra costs. Thanks to the Feds, we ended up with the most costly way of mandating seat belt usage. We now use belts while surrounded by thousands of dollars worth of air bags adding to the total costs for everyone. STUPID!

    That said, although I am obvioulsy pro-seat belt, I do not believe there is a real reason to force drivers to wear them. Pointing out that we use roads is inaccurate, because government doesn’t fund roads – WE DO! Governments are merely an organizational tool for the majority of the road building. The government has NO MONEY. It uses OUR MONEY. So that argument is specious.

    Just because most of our roads are built under government organization, does not mean that this same organization has the ability of legislating good rules for the road. Just because an auto manufacturer may reside in the US and pay US taxes, (when they are forced to), doesn’t mean that the same organization is capable of knowing how to build cars or know how to tell drivers how to drive. That is foolish.

    We have witnessed a lifetime of government incompetence. Belief in following government edits has been discredited so completely I believe we are seeing a new era where citizens start demanding that we be re-empowered to do what we do best.


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