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Buckling seat belts in back should be law in NY

NYC is pushing a law that will require

NYC is pushing a law that will require anyone riding in the front seat of a taxi cab to wear a seat belt. Credit: Flickr/imuttoo

How many times have you gotten into a taxi and not put on your seat belt?

Now ask yourself this -- Why not?

Nobel Prize-winning economist John Nash and his wife, Alicia, were killed Saturday night in a car crash. Reports indicate that neither wore a seat belt and both were thrown from the taxi taking them home from Newark Airport.

It shouldn't take a well-publicized tragedy to make people think about using a seat belt. But sometimes it does.

So, the deaths of the couple portrayed in the book and movie "A Beautiful Mind" should serve as a sad reminder: Buckle up, no matter where you sit or what car you're in.

Saturday's crash isn't an exceptional example. Earlier this year, CBS News correspondent Bob Simon was killed in a crash when he rode in the backseat without a seat belt. Every day, an average of a dozen people who weren't wearing seat belts in the backseat were injured in New York, according to NYU Langone Medical Center 2011 data. Backseat passengers without seat belts were almost five times more likely to go to the hospital as those who wore them.

People are told to buckle up every day and, yet, they don't. So, it'll take more than words. New York requires that only the driver and front passengers, and children younger than 16, wear seat belts. It should consider extending this law to cover everyone in the backseat, too. Twenty-eight states already do.

It can start with taxis and livery cabs, currently exempt from the seat belt law. State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) introduced a bill requiring all NYC taxi and livery cab passengers to wear seat belts. That's great, but it needs to cover the entire state. There's no difference between the safety of taxis and other cars, so the law shouldn't differ, either.

This legislative session is nearly over. Even if Hoylman's bill passes, and we hope it does, it's time to plan hearings and glean best practices, so our leaders can tackle the larger statewide issue of backseat safety in January.

We also encourage federal regulators to consider requiring seat belts in trains and buses, too.

Buckle up. But make it a state and federal priority -- and the law -- not just a friendly slogan.