Wearing your seatbelt in the back seat could become the law in NY

Feb 20, 2019

Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing a law that would require passengers in the back seat of a motor vehicle to wear a seatbelt no matter their age. It would be included in the upcoming state budget. WBFO’s Nick Lippa gathered the thoughts of some local transportation safety advocates.

Credit NHTSA.gov

Most people know you’re safer in a car when wearing a seatbelt, yet in the backseat, many still don’t. According to a 2015 survey by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, up to 80% who responded said they don’t buckle up in the backseat.

Andrew Colaruotolo is the Director of Government Programs for CALSPAN, a company known for vehicle crash testing. He says it’s not the speed that kills you, but the change in speed.

“Your body becomes a projectile in the event of an accident,” Colaruotolo said. “That can cause extreme bodily injury to yourself, as well as other people in the car.”

Colaruotolo added pets can pose a danger as well.

“A lot of people put their dogs in the back seat. Dogs can have the same effect as human beings. If they’re not strapped in, the dog can cause injury to the passenger or the driver,” he said.

Even family members of AAA workers like Western and Central New York Communications Specialist Lindsay Kensy neglect to often buckle up.

“I’m not sure if it’s just an older perception,” Kensy said. “I know I had asked my Dad just a few months ago, he was in the back seat and I said, ‘Could you buckle up?’ He responded, ‘I don’t need to.’ I was like, ‘Can you though? I would feel better if you buckled up.’ Older adults are just as susceptible to the laws of physics as younger people. Everyone should be protected by this.”

Kensy thinks the proposed law, which is already present in 28 other states and Washignton D.C., will get people into a habit of buckling up in the back seat. The question now is if this issue comes through as a primary or a secondary law?

“Some of the states that do have rear seatbelt laws, it’s secondary. So it’s only if they are pulled over for something else that they could be fined or get a ticket for it,” Kensy said.

Under the current law, adults can face up to a $50 fine for a first violation for not wearing their seatbelt in the front seat. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belt use in passenger vehicles saved close to 15,000 lives in 2016.

“We know that in 2016, there were 101 total injuries in Erie County,” Kensy said regarding unbuckled back seat passengers. “Two people were killed because they didn’t buckle up in the back seat. 14 people were seriously injured. Almost 100 people had moderate to minor injuries.”

Kensy said there’s a statistical abundance to support their claims when it comes to the issue.

“We do know that in New York State that there were 27 unbuckled rear seat occupants that were age 16 plus, killed in NYS back in 2016. That’s the most recent year we have data for. This is an issue that is effecting more people than people think,” she said.

Cuomo's initial budget proposal also included an elimination of the exception to seatbelt requirements for limousines, buses, taxis, livery vehicles and school buses.