Safety advocates prod state to pass law requiring backseat passengers to buckle up

Mar 12, 2018

Backseat passengers should be forced to wear seatbelts, according to the nation’s largest automobile organization.

AAA cites a new study indicating that unbuckled passengers who sit in rear seats are three times more likely to be killed.

Credit AAA

In 2016, the number of unbelted rear seat injuries suffered by adults increased for the first time this decade. Preliminary data from 2017 suggests yet a second increase.

Currently, 29 states require all passengers to buckle up, regardless of age or where they’re sitting. New York is not among them.

“Once you turn 16, you don’t have to wear a seatbelt in the backseat,” said Alec Slatky, a government relations liaison for AAA. “And it’s ironic, because that’s the time when children are most likely to be in a dangerous situation in the vehicle.”

Slatky believes the injuries and deaths suffered by unbelted rear passengers will continue to increase until the state legislature acts on a plan supported by Governor Cuomo.

“We’re calling on the legislature to pass a rear seatbelt law for all adults in every seat, of every vehicle,” Slatky said. “And that’s going to save lives, that’s going to prevent injuries, and we think that it’s an appropriate, and really sorely necessary step for the state legislature to take.”

He added that unbelted rear passengers are not just a risk to themselves. He said they are a “lurking danger” to anyone else who is in vehicle.

“We call them a ‘back seat bullet.’”

In 2016, 27 unbelted passengers in rear seats were killed in New York. More than 2,400 were injured.

More than 40 percent of adults killed in rear seats were ejected from the vehicle.

Slatky encouraged motorists to be proactive.

“If you’re a driver and you have folks in the backseat, turn around and make sure they’re buckled up. And if not, give them a reminder. That is actually bound to be one of the most impactful ways to get folks to buckle up in the backseat.”