Teenager links ignition to seat belt

The brother of a car accident victim has come up with a device that prevents the engine starting until the driver's seat belt is fastened.

Khalid al Shammari demonstrates his invention at the Abu Dhabi Police headquarters.
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ABU DHABI // When a car accident flung his brother head-first against the windscreen, it prompted Khalid al Shammari to think about ways of ensuring drivers and passengers wear seat belts. He has come up with a device that prevents the engine starting until the driver's seat belt is fastened. Mr al Shammari, 18, a 12th-grade student at Khalifa bin Zayed High in Al Ain, said he had been sleeping on the back seat when the accident occurred about three years ago.

"My brother was driving fast towards a roundabout, so he crashed into another car, and his face smashed into the glass because he was not wearing his seat belt." The injury to his brother made Mr al Shammari think seriously about attitudes to seat belts. "If you ask any Emirati why he does not wear the seat belt, he'll tell you so his khandoura [the traditional white gown] does not get wrinkled," he said.

"I started thinking, I'm not a genius when it comes to my school studies, so why not come up with something useful for humanity?" Three months later, he bought a car seat, seat belt, car battery and an electric motor. "I started examining how the car engine starts and started playing with the wires. I got electrocuted a few times." Eventually Mr al Shammari created a circuit linking the belt to the motor and battery. While the belt is unfastened the circuit is broken and the motor will not start.

"A year later, I added the hand gear to the equation, so neither the engine nor the gear will operate if the seat belt is not buckled." He sat in his invention, which at the moment is a seat connected to the battery and motor, buckled the seat belt and started the motor. He played with the gear lever, then undid the seat belt. The motor cut out and the lever wouldn't move. "The next step I aim for, is to apply this system to a full-body car, so I can add an alert message if the motorist unbuckles his seat belt, warning him that the engine will stop in two minutes, for example."

Mr al Shammari was recognised for his achievements by Abu Dhabi Police two weeks ago, and was given a certificate and a cash prize of Dh5,000 (US$1,360). hdajani@thenational.ae