Are Back Seat Passengers Cheating Themselves on Safety?

Recent studies seem to suggest that back seat passengers often neglect to use their seat belt.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently conducted a study in which four out of five people surveyed confessed to not wearing their seat belts while riding in the back seat of the car. Those same people also said they don’t buckle up in the back seat during short trips or rides in taxis or with a ride-sharing service.

The reason for this may be because people believe they are safer while sitting in the back seat, as the study also found.

Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed said part of the reason they don’t buckle up in the back seat is because their state’s seatbelt laws don’t require it- states such South Dakota, Nebraska, Michigan, Connecticut, Colorado, Alabama, and others.

Other states, including Arizona, California, and Florida require the use of properly functioning seatbelts in both the front and back seats (at least for some occupants) of passenger vehicles. California’s law explicitly says that all passengers over the age of 8 must wear a seatbelt and children under the age of 8 are required to use an age appropriate child safety seat.

Jessica Jermakian, a senior researcher with the IIHS reminds vehicle occupants that they are only as safe in the back seat as they are in the front seat if they are wearing their seatbelts. That fact applies, she says, to taxis and ride-share vehicles, such as Lyft and Uber.

While the law does not require passengers in taxis and other forms of public transportation to wear a seatbelt, passengers in ride-share vehicles must because Uber and Lyft drivers are considered independent contractors using their personal vehicles.

Clearing up any doubts the public may have about that point, Uber’s website urges everyone to stay safe by checking out their rider safety tips and buckling up every time in whatever vehicle you might be riding in.

According to the Lyft website, drivers can only take as many passengers as there are seatbelts in the vehicle. Larger groups can take advantage of Lyft Plus- those vehicles can seat as many as 6 people.

Seat belt laws vary widely across the country. Some states have compulsory seat belt laws for both the front and back seat, while others only require seat belt use in the front seat. Some state laws allow law enforcement officers to ticket non-use of seat belts as a primary offense, while others can only enforce secondarily. And fines range from the cost of a fast food meal up to hundreds of dollars.

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