Seat Belt Usage Up in the United States

Most Americans grew up knowing the importance of "buckling up" when we get behind the wheel. However, many Americans still don't use a seat belt when they're riding in the back seat of a vehicle. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 28 percent of respondents admitted they don't always buckle up when they're a back seat passenger.

Why Don't More Back Seat Passengers Use Seat Belts?

Most of the 28 percent in that IIHS survey cited their belief that they're safer in the back than the front. After all, young children are required to ride in the back seat. However, children are required to be in special seats.

Another reason many rear passengers don't buckle up is that nothing happens to remind them if they don't. Since the 1970s, cars have had seat belt alarms for those in front. However, they're not mandatory in the back seat, and only about 7 percent of 2018 vehicles have them.

Further, only 18 states have laws requiring seat belt use by back seat passengers Meanwhile, in 34 states and Washington, D.C., drivers can be cited for not using front seat belts.

Why Is the Back Seat So Dangerous?

For adults, the back seat can be more dangerous if the vehicle is involved in a crash. Relatively few vehicles have airbags in the back. Further, front seat belts are more likely to have advanced features.

According to the IIHS, unrestrained back seat passengers have an eight times greater chance of injury or death than their front seat companions. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 966 unrestrained back seat passengers died in 2015 following crashes.

The NHTSA data doesn't include passengers injured or killed while riding in the rear of a rideshare vehicle like Uber or Lyft, cabs or other hired vehicles. Veteran newsman Bob Simon was killed in 2015 while riding unbelted in a hired car. Famed Nobel Prize winner John Nash and his wife, whose lives were portrayed in the movie A Beautiful Mind weren't wearing seat belts when their cab crashed the same year, killing them.

Taking Responsibility as a Driver or Passenger

Drivers should ensure that everyone in the vehicle is properly buckled in before they move. As a back seat passenger, you should make sure that the driver doesn't take off until you're securely fastened in. These precautions can greatly minimize injuries in a crash or sudden stop. Nonetheless, if you're injured due to the actions or negligence of someone else, a car accident attorney can provide information on your legal options.