U.S. auto-safety investigators are probing seatbelts installed in Polaris Slingshot three-wheeled vehicles after a driver was thrown and killed in a crash despite being buckled up.
The Slingshot slid sideways into oncoming traffic while the driver was making a lane change and collided with a vehicle heading in the opposite direction, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration summary of the crash. The driver was partially ejected from the Slingshot despite wearing a helmet and using the vehicle’s seatbelt, NHTSA said, citing a police report.
Post-crash pictures showed that the Slingshot’s seatbelt retractor was “in a shattered condition with the internal components found outside the retractor body,” according to NHTSA. The driver died from a severed spinal cord, according to a complaint submitted to the regulator by a person claiming to be the driver’s sibling.
Polaris Industries Inc., based in Medina, Minnesota, didn’t immediately respond to an email to its media inbox seeking comment outside of regular business hours.
The probe will cover 4,779 Slingshots from the 2015 model year, when Polaris introduced the three-wheeler that blurred the line between passenger cars and motorcycles. Despite a seated position, steering wheel and seatbelts, the Slingshot is classified as a motorcycle under NHTSA safety regulations.
The agency said it’s unaware of any additional seatbelt retractor failures on the vehicles, some of which have previously been recalled for other problems including faulty steering racks, headlights that may shut off while driving and the risk of leaky fuel lines.
Polaris has been dogged by a string of recalls in recent years involving its off-road products, including some for fire hazards.