Hitting the Highway This Holiday Season? Buckle Up in Front and Back

Hitting the Highway This Holiday Season? Buckle Up in Front and Back

If you're among the millions of Americans planning to take to the road this holiday season, remember to make everybody in your vehicle buckle up.

Each year, hundreds of unbelted back seat passengers are killed in crashes, according to a new Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report.

In 2018, 803 unrestrained rear-seat passengers age 8 and older lost their lives in crashes, according to U.S. government data. More than 400 might have survived if they had been using their seat belts.

Backseat passengers in taxis and ride-hailing vehicles buckle up less often than those in private vehicles. One survey found that only about 6 in 10 respondents who traveled mostly in hired vehicles said they always used seat belts.

Though safety features in newer vehicles have made the front seat safer than the rear seat in a crash, rear belt use continues to be significantly lower than front belt use: 76% versus 90%, respectively, according to the report.

And 31 states don't require adult passengers to buckle up in the back seat. Rear belt use is higher in states with such laws (69%) than elsewhere (60%).

In the past four years, Alabama and Mississippi have passed laws requiring adult rear-seat passengers to buckle up.

"As millions take to the road this holiday season on family car trips, and as use of ride-hailing services continues to surge, more people find themselves in the back seat of passenger vehicles. That means it's even more imperative that we work together to encourage all motor vehicle passengers to take their safety seriously, no matter the seating position," said Jonathan Adkins, GHSA's executive director.

The report calls on states to pass and enforce strong laws and publicize the benefits of seat belt use for all vehicle occupants. It calls on for-hire vehicle services to promote belt use; urges vehicle makers to install rear seat belt use reminders; and says the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) should require such reminders.

"Collectively, these actions would go a long way toward increasing rear seat belt use to be more on par with front seat belt use," report author James Hedlund said in a GHSA news release.

Source: Governors Highway Safety Association, news release, Nov. 18, 2019.

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