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New seatbelt may save passengers from drowning

Salt pill dissolves when the buckle is submerged in water, to automatically release the latch.

By Douglas Newcomb Dec 12, 2012 1:42PM

Escape Belt. Image by Fijen TMLSWhile automakers have added all manner of high-tech safety features designed to help avoid or lessen the impact on occupants during a car accident, seatbelts haven’t changed much since the 3-point harness was introduced by Volvo in 1959. But that’s changing, even for drivers and passengers who suddenly find themselves underwater.


About 400 U.S. motorists die each year due to drowning accidents when their car plunges into water and they become trapped by seatbelts, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Dutch manufacturer Fijen TMLS is hoping to reduce that statistic with its Escape Belt, which includes a mechanism that automatically releases the belt when it becomes submerged in water. 


Inside the female latch of the Escape Belt is a salt pill that dissolves when the buckle is submerged, triggering the male hammer-release to activate and disconnect the buckle. The buckle won’t inadvertently release if liquid is spilled on it, according to the Fijen TMLS, and the pill cartridge needs to be replaced every few years.


While it may be a few years before we see the Escape Belt installed in cars, other automakers are refining seatbelt technology. Ford recently introduced rear-passenger seatbelt airbags, for example, and Mercedes-Benz will offer a similar feature on its 2014 S-Class models, along with illuminated and motorized buckles that make fastening seatbelts much easier.


Autoliv, the inventor of the original Volvo seatbelt, supplies a new 3+2 belt design for Renault in Europe that’s designed to cover the “open side” of the traditional three-point seatbelt to provide better protection to passengers in a side impact.

Here's a quick demo of Fijen's new ejecting buckles:

[Source: Wired Autopia]
Dec 13, 2012 6:53AM

a salt tablet, that would be great in places like, FL.  Just how many high humidity days will that pill be able to handle before rendering the seatbelt useless and setting the owner up for a fine.

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