• New GM system won't let drivers shift out of park unless they're belted in
  • Optional feature is dubbed Belt Assurance System
  • GM rolling out feature to fleet vehicles; other models may follow

General Motors will soon offer a new feature that won't let you drive a vehicle until you've put on your seat belt. The automaker is rolling out the optional item, dubbed the Belt Assurance System, on some of its fleet vehicles later this year.

According to GM, the system works exactly as you'd expect: While you can start the car without your seat belt on, both the driver and passenger must be belted in before you'll be able to shift out of park. Of course, a sensor will determine whether there's a passenger in the car. If there isn't, only the driver will be required to buckle up before shifting into gear.

While General Motors will offer the feature as an option in four 2015-model-year vehicles -- the Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan, the Chevrolet Colorado and Silverado pickups, and the GMC Sierra pickup -- the automaker says the system is not yet available to the public. Instead, the feature will only be offered to fleet buyers -- likely government agencies that want to make sure their employees are safely belted in before setting off.

With that said, GM isn't ruling out the possibility of offering the feature on future vehicles, including those meant for retail buyers. Interestingly, the automaker says the Belt Assurance System, which will be available beginning in the fourth quarter of this year, will be offered at no charge.

"Customer safety is on the forefront of everything we do," said Jeff Boyer, GM's vice president of global vehicle safety. "It is essential for the safety of our customers and all drivers' safety to develop the habit of buckling up each and every time they get into their vehicles."

General Motors says the announcement of its Belt Assurance System was made to coincide with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Click It or Ticket campaign, which urges drivers to buckle up. NHTSA says that seat-belt usage is the single most effective way to reduce fatalities in car crashes, noting that seat belts saved more than 12,000 lives in 2012 alone.

What it means to you: While the Belt Assurance System will only reach a few cars for 2015, we wouldn't be surprised to see this technology become widespread someday.

author photo

Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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