Seatbelts save lives. However, people aren’t buckling up as much as they think they are. While there are laws that insist that the driver and front-seat passenger wear a seatbelt while driving, the same laws aren’t present for the back seat.
Not much attention is given to the importance of buckling in the backseat. But this definitely needs to change as not wearing a seat belt, whether in the front or back of the car, can lead to severe injuries and even death.
Why Don’t People Wear Seatbelts in the Backseat?
According to a survey conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), around 28 percent of the respondents did not make a habit of wearing a seat belt while in the back of a car. The predominant reason people don’t buckle up when in the backseat is the belief that the backseats are the safest place in the car.
This belief stems from the idea that kids should be seated in the backseat while being properly restrained. However, adults seem to believe that buckling in the back seat does not apply to them. The chances of adults wearing a seatbelt while in the back seat get even lower when they are in a ride-hailing service or if they’re making a short trip.
In all likelihood, adults probably don’t wear seat belts while in the backseat because they never made a habit of it. With the driver’s seat and front seat, adults are often forced to wear seat belts due to the law. But without this constant reminder to wear a seat belt in the back seat, adults often feel that it is optional, even though it shouldn’t be.
Is the Backseat Really Safer Than the Front Seat?
While the backseat was previously regarded as the safest area of the car, this is no longer true. It’s not that it became more dangerous. It’s just that front seats have become safer.
Due to the increased risk when seated in the front seat of a car, engineers have made improvements to enhance the safety of the front seat. These improvements include lap and shoulder belts with advanced features. These features allow the front seat belts to reduce the force the front-seat passenger experiences when in a vehicular crash.
Additionally, while front seats would have required airbags, the same cannot be said about back seats. Only some car models contain rear airbags, and often, these are add-ons you need to pay a lot of money for.
What Does the Data Show?
According to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2015, 4.3 percent of fatalities that year involved unrestrained individuals seated in the backseats. That is almost one thousand deaths that a seat belt could have prevented. The IIHS also found that unbuckled backseat passengers were eight times more likely to be injured or killed in a crash compared to those wearing a seatbelt.
In terms of the law, only 18 states have laws regarding the wearing of seat belts for backseat passengers. And while front seat belt reminder systems have been mandatory in the United States since the 1970s, only seven percent of 2018 model cars have built-in rear seat belt reminder systems.
In data collected in 2014 from the Taxi and Limousine Commission in New York City, it was found that only 38 percent of taxi passengers wear seat belts during the ride. And while ride-hailing services send reminders to buckle up, there aren’t really any strict policies requiring riders to wear seat belts in the backseat.
While buckling is required for drivers and front-seat passengers, there are not enough laws and policies ensuring the safety of backseat passengers. More definitely needs to be done regarding this matter as statistics show the increased risk for backseat passengers if unrestrained. People need to build a habit of wearing seat belts in the backseat just as they do in the front seat; failure to do so can be the difference between life and death for some passengers.
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