Lots of people do not wear seat belts all the time, especially those in the back seat. Children seem to hate them, or use them improperly, and perhaps they have been looked at as a, well, restraint for too long.  This year, Ford Motor company has introduced inflatable seat belts that just may change the way people think about seat belts forever.

Ford Inflatable Seat Belts “This 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,” said Sue Cischke, Ford group vice president of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering. “Expanding the rollout of this technology is another example of Ford leading the way to enhance vehicle safety for our customers.”(source)

Ford Inflatable Seat Belts In essence, the inflatable seat belts work like air bags, and inflate quickly upon collision. The seat belts spread the crash force across five times more Of the body, reducing pressure on the chest, and control head and neck motion in the seat. After deployment, the belt remains inflated for several seconds before dispersing its air through the pores of the airbag.

“It’s a very simple and logical system, but it required extensive trial and error and testing over several years to prove out the technology and ensure precise, reliable performance in a crash situation,” said Srini Sundararajan, safety technical leader for Ford Research and Innovation.

Ford fitted 2011 Explorer models with these inflatable seat belts, and plans to offer the technology in Ford Flex and on Lincoln vehicles starting next summer.

Ford’s main pitch is that the technology will increase seat belt use, and has tons of market research to back up the claims. Ford found that 90 percent consumers considered the seat belts as or more comfortable as traditional belts. This appeal could increase the percentage of US rear-seat seal belt use—which averages an astonishing 61 percent. Front passenger seat belt use, on the other hand, is at 81 percent.

Here is an overview the latest Ford press release relating to the inflatable seat belt tech.

•Ford introduces the auto industry’s first-ever production inflatable seat belts, which are designed to provide additional protection for rear seat occupants, often children and older passengers who can be more vulnerable to head, chest and neck injuries.

•Ford’s inflatable rear seat belts debuted on the 2011 Ford Explorer; Ford eventually plans to offer inflatable seat belt technology in vehicles globally.

•Ford’s inflatable rear seat belts spread crash forces over five times more area of the body than conventional seat belts; this helps reduce pressure on the chest and helps control head and neck motion for rear seat passengers.

•More than 90 percent of Ford research participants indicated that Ford’s inflatable seat belts are similar to or more comfortable than traditional belts, which could help increase the lower rate of rear belt usage.