Dept of Having-Seen-It-All-Now: Chinese Safety Reduction Devices

The other afternoon I was riding in the back seat of a late model SUV owned by a successful businessman based in Guangdong. He’s a busy guy, with a high risk tolerance, so it really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise that he doesn’t have much patience for seat belts, much less, the insistent alarms that his SUV sounds when he chooses to drive without fastening the one on the driver’s side. But I’ll admit, I was something more than surprised when he showed me the device that he utilizes to put a stop to those (in his view) irritatingly insistent alarms.

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That’s right: he inserts a belt tongue (I looked it up; tongue is the term of art) that’s not connected to a belt, thereby disabling the alarm. Now, take a closer look at the above photo. Lacking a slot for an actual belt, that tongue has one purpose, and one purpose only: disabling seat belt alarms. According to my new friend, such tongues are readily available in most local auto parts stores (we were in Qingyuan). That is to say: there are enough haters of both seat belts and seat belt alarms (in Qingyuan, at least), to justify an entire product line. I asked to see this product line in its natural environment, and after lunch we stopped by a nearby parts store.

It was just as he said.

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My favorites are the ones that come outfitted with cute stuffed animals/Snoopy attached to them.

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No doubt, these orphan belt tongues won’t come as a surprise to some people. But they sure as hell came as a surprise to me. Perhaps it’s my sheltered background; or perhaps I just come from a place where seat belt laws are strictly enforced and I’d bet that these buckles are 100% illegal. But enough about me and instead let this serve as one more example of how China’s highly responsive manufacturing sector – in the absence of common sense, but with a surfeit of good humor – fulfills yet another need that most people never knew existed.

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9 comments

  1. Ha! Chinese have found a clever way to deal with an annoyance, but they aren’t the first. When I was a kid (back in the 70s) there was a guy at our local gas station who could disconnect the seat belt alarms in any car, and he would do it for any customer — for free.

  2. The economic theory of opportunity cost says that in the minds of a rational person the mandatory seat belts laws reduce the benefits of safe driving. Safety measures reduce injury per accident but cause more accidents overall – especially to pedestrians and bike riders. The Peltzman Effect I think it’s called.

  3. This is a very instructive example, showing not only the speed and agility by which small Chinese makers can meet a need but also how almost everyone jumps in when there’s an opportunity, quickly offering seemingly impossibly varied and broad selections, and quickly reducing the sale price to seemingly impossibly low levels.

  4. I can see this being useful, in a not-as-illegal manner, for cases where the passenger seat has a weight sensor that will trigger an alarm if something is on it – Groceries, your pet dog, whatever…

  5. I live in Hong Kong and have never, ever seen this.

    Funny how everyone’s commenting on the entrepreneurial cleverness, instead of what happens when your kids aren’t strapped in and some idiot Chinese driver plows into you.

  6. I notice that the packages have Japanese on them, 安全なバックル, “safety buckle”. Could these have been manufactured for sale in Japan? Or might the Japanese just be there for effect, as I have seen on other products here?

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