States Expand Seat Belt Laws to Backseat Passengers

By Colin Bird  on August 20, 2010

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Almost every state has a law requiring children and adults to wear seat belts, but many of these laws have a critical flaw: They typically don’t require adult rear passengers to buckle up. 

It’s important that backseat riders wear their belts, too, not only for their own safety but for the front passengers. In a crash, unbelted rear passengers are five times more likely to cause fatal injuries to front-seat passengers even if the front passengers are buckled in, according to the Telegraph

Even though seat belt use in the front seat has steadily grown over the years, lawmakers are concerned by the gap — and in some instances, decline — in seat belt use in the backseat. 

In New Jersey, seat belt use among front-seat passengers grew to 94% this year, but only 27% of adult backseat passengers wore belts, 5 percentage points less than the year before, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As a result, New Jersey added a secondary backseat seat belt law. Since 2007, Louisiana, Minnesota, Indiana, Kansas and Texas have passed similar laws. 

Rear seat belt use stood at a 74% national average in 2008, compared with 83% for front-seat passengers, according to NHTSA. 

State seat belt laws, which issue fines ranging from $5 in Kansas to $200 in Texas for noncompliance, increase seat belt usage, NHTSA says. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 25 states and the District of Columbia require front and rear passengers to buckle up. 

States Expand Seat Belt Laws to Cover Rear-Seat Riders (USA Today)



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