Over the past few years, the use of seat belts has greatly increased in Europe, but much less so in the U.S. Seat belt improvements have been made in the following areas:
- Design changes allowing easier access and operation such as the release button being located on top of the buckle.
- Significant reduction in unlocking efforts needed when the belt is under load, allowing the occupant caught in his seat belt in a rolled-over car to disengage himself by applying normal pressure on the release button.
- Reduction of belt pressure on the shoulder without decreasing the strap storage capacity or wearing clearance.
- Reduction of the belt efforts required for strapping the belts by means of improvements in the operation of the retraction mechanism and by reducing belt deployment friction outside the retractor.
These improvements have been implemented over the years to reduce unpleasantness in the wearing of the belts and to overcome certain psychological reservations to their use. These improvements have not been made available on U.S. models, which are equipped with classic seat belts strictly in compliance with FMVSS 209.