Unbuckled riders in the back seat can be deadly for the driver
Loose passengers in rear risk slamming forward in a crash
By: Sophia Tulp – USA TODAY
“Click it or ticket,” “seat belts save lives.” Though these slogans mark highway billboards across the country, new data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show that adults forgo their seat belts when sitting in the back seat and in hailed rides — and this action could be fatal to other passengers in the car.
The IIHS surveyed more than 1,000 adults 18 and older, and 72% said they always use their belt in the back seat, while 91% said they always use their belt when seated in front — about a 20% difference. People ages 35 to 54 were the least likely group to report buckling up in the back seat. Sixty-six percent of this group reported always buckling up in the back seat compared with 73% of adults 18 to 34.
One prominent example of the danger of riding in a car unsecured is Princess Diana, who died in a fatal crash at ag e 36 while unbuckled in the back seat of a Mercedes in Paris.
Jessica Jermakian, senior researcher and author of the study, said that even two decades later, crashes like Diana’s still happen because passeng ers operate under a false assumption that the back seat is safer than the front.
“The laws of physics aren’t suspended just because you’ve moved to the back seat,” Jermakian said. “You still need to buckle up to get the best protection in a crash.”
Jermakian said many respondents didn’t believe they would go through the windshield because the seat back would stop them. This mentality could kill the driver.
When a car crashes with a passenger in the back seat who isn’t using a seat belt, the unbelted rear-seat passenger can slam into the driver’s seat, pushing the driver into the airbag and steering wheel with a 35-mph impact. More than half the fatalities in passenger vehicle crashes in the USA each year involve unbelted occupants.
The report showed that people are least likely to belt up in the back when they take a short-distance ride in a hailed car such as an Uber or taxi. Four out of five adults surveyed said they don’t bother to use a belt on such short trips. The risk is accentuated as ridesharing services increase in popularity.
“When we asked people why they are less likely to buckle up in the back seat of an Uber or a taxi, many people said they don’t know … or they were just going a short distance, so it was unnecessary,” Jermakian said.
The Governors Highway Safety Association published a report last year titled “Unbuckled in Back: An Overlooked Issue in Occupant Protection.” It found that rear-seat passengers are three times more likely to die in a crash if unbelted.
“We need rear-seat passengers to understand that seat belts are critical for them, too,” said JonathanAdkins, executive director ofthe GHSA.
Fastening your seat belt isn’t just for riders up front. It’s also critical in the back seat.