Extremely strange seatbelt warning sticker (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Wed, 02 May 2012

Extremely strange seatbelt warning sticker

I bought a Miata yesterday! My new baby. It's a 2000, in a lovely color Mazda calls "twilight blue mica". (You can see Miata pictures here, if you're so inclined.)

I'd forgotten how much nicer sports cars are to drive. I retired my last X1/9 more than a year ago, and have been driving mushy street vehicles since then. The Miata surprises me every time I get into it with its immediacy -- throttle, brake, steering, everything happens now.

It does have some used-car glitches that I need to sort out (some of them maybe even severe), but in general it's a great car: in stock trim it handles a lot like the street-prepared X1/9, even on crappy Kumho tires. Of course, that could be new owner infatuation talking. Ask me again in a few months. :-)

[extremely strange seatbelt warning] But really what I wanted to write about was the extremely strange warning sticker that came plastered to the driver's side window. I didn't really look at the sticker until the second day after I drove the car home, and then did a double-take. It says:

While use of all seat belts reduce the chance of ejection, failure to install and use shoulder harnesses with lap belts can result in serious or fatal injuries in some crashes. Lap-only belts increase the chance of head and neck injury by allowing the upper torso to move unrestrained in a crash and increase the chance of spinal column and abdominal injuries by concentrating excessive force on the lower torso. Because children carry a disproportionate amount of body weight above the waist, they are more likely to sustain those injuries. Shoulder harnesses may be available that can be retrofitted in this vehicle. For more information call the Auto Safety Hotline at 1-800-424-9393.

If you look at the photo I took of the sticker, note the shoulder belt anchor at the right edge of the frame. It's a normal stock shoulder belt, just like you'll find in any car -- this is a 2000 model, for crying out loud, not a 1970.

A web search on the error message led me to Section 27314.5 of the California Vehicle Code, which states that

27314.5. (a) (1) Subject to paragraph (3), no dealer shall sell or offer for sale any used passenger vehicle of a model year of 1972 to 1990, inclusive, unless there is affixed to the window of the left front door or, if there is no window, to another suitable location so that it may be seen and read by a person standing outside the vehicle at that location, a notice, printed in 14-point type, which reads as follows:
... followed by the text on my sticker. It goes on:
(2) The notice shall remain affixed to the vehicle pursuant to paragraph (1) at all times that the vehicle is for sale.

So the dealer must have put this sticker on. But why? Reading on:

(3) The notice is not required to be affixed to any vehicle equipped with both a lap belt and a shoulder harness for the driver and one passenger in the front seat of the vehicle and for at least two passengers in the rear seat of the vehicle.

The dealer must not have read as far as paragraph (3).

I also found that, despite the fact that the DMV's website still links to the page I linked above, that statute was in the process of being repealed by CA Assembly Bill 2679. Except that if you click on "Read latest draft", apparently they changed their minds again in the latest version of AB 2679 and are now going to keep the warning in.

Maybe instead of leaving it unchanged or striking it, they should change it to make it clearer that it only applies to cars without shoulder harnesses installed ... if there are any such cars. Haven't shoulder harnesses been mandatory in US cars since the early 1970s? Wikipedia says they've been mandatory in the front seat since 1968 ... but the citation they give for that goes to a page that no longer exists, so that may be off by a few years.

In any case, anyone buying a car so old it doesn't have a shoulder harness and only "may" be able to have one retrofitted to it probably understands there may be some safety issues in a 40-year-old car, and doesn't need a warning sticker.

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[ 21:05 May 02, 2012    More misc | permalink to this entry | ]

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