ALBANY — New York State is poised to join 19 other states in requiring safety belt use in the rear seat of automobiles, which long has been thought to be the safest place for riders in crashes.
“More than 1,500 people, as many of us know, have lost their lives for failure to wear their seat belt in the backseat since 1985,” said Assemb. Walter Mosley (D-Brooklyn), co-sponsor of the bill. “The propensity to survive an accident exceeds triplefold if you were to be wearing your seat belt.”
New York’s bill would require every passenger 16 years of age or older to wear a safety belt. Children under 16 are already required to use safety belts in the rear seat.
“Safety experts believe that the use of a rear seat belt could prevent over two-thirds of fatalities and serious injuries resulting from motor vehicle crashes,” the bill says.
The bill passed the Senate May 15 and has moved through committees in the Assembly to the point that it could be added to the calendar for a floor vote before the scheduled end of the session on June 19. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo would have to sign a passed bill into law. He proposed a similar bill in his state budget, but it was adopted April 1 without the safety belt measure.
“Research shows us passengers who do not fasten their seat belt in the backseat are eight times more likely to suffer injury or death," said Sen. David Carlucci (D-Nanuet), the bill's co-sponsor. "It does not matter whether you sit in the front or the back seat, the safest choice is to buckle up. This bill is about preventing tragedies and saving lives.”
Several studies back up the bill, including 2015 research by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the federal Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. The latter's study found backseat riders not using safety belts were nearly eight times as likely to be severely injured in a crash than a rear-seat rider wearing a seat belt.
Similarly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s data of accidents from 2000 to 2003 showed backseat passengers who wore safety belts were two to three times more likely to survive a crash than those who didn’t use them, according to a University at Buffalo study.
The Buffalo research also showed 34.6 percent of backseat passengers not wearing safety belts were fatally injured in crashes, compared with 14.9 percent who wore safety belts and survived.
“This study reinforces the importance of using seat belts in the back seat, as well as demonstrating that the rear middle seat is the safest," said Dietrich Jehle, associate professor of emergency medicine who was the lead author of the study. "Legislation to require rear-seat belt use by all passengers should be strongly supported."