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Exploring a new trend in automotive safety

If you are in the market for a new car, there’s a good chance that safety is at the top of your list of priorities. The auto industry is now offering more advanced safety technology than ever before, and most vehicles offer options like automatic braking, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and more airbags. But one new feature, in particular, has generated interest in the industry. Airbag equipped seatbelts may not be as common as some safety features, but they can offer additional protection for vehicle occupants.

Most consumers haven’t heard of airbag equipped seatbelts, in part because they are currently only offered by two manufacturers. Ford Motor Company offers them in Ford and Lincoln models, and Mercedes-Benz currently offers their own version of the inflatable seatbelt in a few of their cars. They are more readily available from Ford, and it’s important to note that they are offered as an added, optional feature in some but not all Ford models, and aren’t currently included as a standard safety feature on new vehicles.

Ford’s Edge, Flex, Fusion and F-150 as well as Lincoln’s MKT, MKX and MKZ are the only ones that offer the enhanced seatbelts as an option. Per Ford’s website, the feature is a $650 upcharge. It’s also worth noting that these seatbelts are for the rear seat, and are not offered on the front seat of any vehicle.

So why would anyone consider a seatbelt with an airbag? The inflatable belt is meant to reduce the force on the head, chest, and neck in a collision. Generally, children ride in the back seat, and their bones are not fully developed yet. The inflatable seatbelt could possibly keep a child from having broken bones from the seatbelt as the result of a crash. According to the Ford website, the benefits of the seatbelts are as follows:

During a crash, the inflatable belt helps distribute crash forces across more of a passenger’s torso than a traditional belt – up to five times more. Spreading the pressure over a larger area helps reduce pressure on the passenger’s chest, and helps control head and neck motion.

If your little ones are still in car seats, then you should do some research. Not all car seats work with the inflatable seatbelts. The belt is thicker than the standard belts that most cars use, and also a little less flexible. If you purchase a car equipped with inflatable seatbelts and have children in child seats, simply search online to see if your seat is compatible. Ford dealers should have up-to-date lists of compatible seats, but if you purchase your vehicle used, you will likely have to do your own research.

There is not a lot of research or testing to back up the claims made by Ford Motor Company. Ford has offered to sell the technology to other automakers, but it is unclear if any manufacturers have expressed interest. Ford has been using it since 2011, and it does not appear that anyone else is introducing the technology in the coming model year.

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