Here’s Why Back-Seat Passengers Should Always Buckle Up

by Terry Bryant

In the face of warnings being issued for years about the dangers of unbelted back seat passengers in cars, it seems most are ignoring the fact that those same unsecured back seat passengers can suddenly become human missiles in a crash and seriously injure not only themselves, but those in the front seats. This is according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The most common excuse given for not buckling up in the back seat, according to the 1,172 IIHS survey respondents, is that it’s unnecessary — because “the rear seat is safer than the front.” But that’s an illusion, especially if they’re involved in a “sudden stop” accident. Adults know it’s safest for their kids to be restrained in the back seat, according to Jessica Jermakian, a senior research engineer at IIHS. “They’ve gotten that; but when it comes to their own safety, there is a common misperception that buckling up is optional,” she adds.

When a car crashes with a passenger in the back seat who isn’t using a seat belt, that rear-seat passenger can slam into the front seat, pushing either the driver or front-seat passenger into the airbag (and steering wheel) with at least a 35 mph impact, the IIHS study reveals.  Here’s what the study shows can happen with an unbelted rear seat passenger in an auto accident.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2015, 4.3% of 22,441 fatalities — or 966 deaths — involved unrestrained people in rear seats. And IIHS research finds that unbuckled rear-seat travelers are 800% more likely than buckled rear-seat passengers to be injured or killed in a crash — although that comes as little surprise.

This issue takes on special importance in an environment where ride sharing is growing exponentially, thanks to ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, in addition to traditional taxicabs and other car services. “Customers are more likely to go unbelted than in their own vehicles,” says IIHS’s Jermakian.  In 2015, the most recent year for which rear-seat safety data is available, 1,018 unrestrained rear-seat occupants were killed in auto accidents. That fact alone is the reason some states and communities specifically mandate that all passengers in ride-hailing vehicles be buckled in.

An earlier study by the Governors Highway Safety Association in 2003, revealed that there were 883 unrestrained rear-seat passenger fatalities aged 8 and older, and virtually half of those victims would likely have been saved had they just worn their seatbelts.

Texas Seat Belt Laws

Texas seat belt laws are designed to protect both drivers and passengers. Since fall 2016, Texas Transportation Code § 545.413 has been modified to state that every passenger, including those who ride in the back seat, must wear a seatbelt while the car is being operated. Failure to do so subjects violators to fines that can range from $25 to $200 for repeat offenders.

If you or any family members have been injured by a negligent, reckless, or drunk driver, the attorneys at Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Lawyers can help. Call us toll-free at 1 (800) 444-5000 or contact us using the contact form.