A back seat to safety?

Seat belt use isn’t required among back seat adult passengers in Ohio

Ohio is one of 21 states that doesn’t require use of seat belts in the back seat for adults, and according to a new report there are more people not wearing those belts than previously thought.

That can be a safety hazard not only for those passengers but for the driver of the vehicle as well.

An estimated 2,800 deaths could have been prevented in 2015 if everyone been wearing a safety belt. according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, 1,018 unrestrained rear-seat occupants died in auto accidents. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in 2015, 55 percent of backseat passengers killed in crashes were not wearing seat belts.

The IIHS put out a report last week that surveyed 1,172 people about wearing their safety belt in the back seat.

Of those people, 72 percent said they always use their belt in the back seat while 91 percent said they always use their belt in the front seat.

According to the study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, adults ages 35 to 54 were the least likely group to report always buckling up in the back seat. Sixty-six percent of this group reported always using a belt in the back compared with 76 percent of adults 55 and older and 73 percent of adults 18 to 34.

The back seat was once the safest place to sit, according to the IIHS. The center rear seat was the safest place of all in the 1960s and ’70s. According to the IIHS, in recent decades, high levels of restraint use and the advent of belt crash tensioners, airbags and crashworthy vehicle design have narrowed the safety advantages of riding in the rear seat for teens and adults.

“Anytime there’s a rollover crash, people can be thrown from the vehicle, especially when they’re not wearing their seat belt,” said Sgt. Garic Warner with Ohio State Highway Patrol Marietta Post. “People in the back seat should have to wear their safety belts just as much as the people in the front seat.”

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association in Ohio, riders 15 years of age or older aren’t required to wear a safety belt in the back seat.

“I would absolutely love to see Ohio make it mandatory for everyone to wear their belts,” said Warner. “Something like that would make the roadways safer and reduce fatalities.”

Ohio Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, and Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Athens and Ohio Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction did not return phone calls Monday to state whether introducing a back seat safety belt law would be something they would support.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate to critical injury by 50 percent.

Safety belts also saved 13,941 lives in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“Everyone should have to wear them,” said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks. “Statistics and tests show that you are more likely to survive a crash and reduce injuries if you’re buckled in.”

In a crash test video from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an unrestrained child-sized test dummy in the back of a van is launched, striking a passenger up front before slamming head first into the windshield. The National Insurance Institute or Highway Safety stated when a car crashes with a passenger in the back seat who isn’t using a seat belt, the unbelted back seat passenger can crash into the driver’s seat, pushing the driver into the airbag and steering wheel with a 35-mile-per-hour impact.

“Seat belts all around save more lives,” said Capt. Aaron Nedeff with the Marietta Police Department. “You hear stories all the time about people dying or being injured due to not wearing their seat belt. In a massive rollover accident, all it takes is the back windshield to break and it doesn’t take much more for the back seat occupant to get ejected from the vehicle.”

Cathrine Burch, 36, of Marietta, said she doesn’t wear her seatbelt because it can become irritating.

“If they were more comfortable I would wear mine more,” she said. “The reason I try to get away with not wearing it is because I’m short and the belt drives into my neck.”

Passengers using services like Uber and Lyft are more likely to not use their safety belt than in their own vehicle, according to the National Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“I think I would lean toward being required to wear seat belts in the back seat,” said Debby Martin, 58, of Bartlett. “I have heard of instances where people in the back seat have injured passengers in the front by not being restrained. That’s scary.”

Belpre resident Shawn Grant, 34, said he thinks everyone should have to wear a seat belt.

“Just because you are a certain age doesn’t mean you are any safer in the back seat of a car. Maybe you are not crawling around like a child would but in an accident being in the back seat doesn’t change how safe it is just because you turned a certain age,” he said.

Other residents thought seat belts should be an option and not mandatory regardless if it’s the front or back seat.

“No seat belts is what I think. It’s your choice to wear them or not,” said Andrew Morse, 27, of Vincent. “If you want to risk your life, that’s on you. It comes down to how much you value your life. But should it be enforced? No.”

Marietta resident Heather Bonar, 23, said seat belts should be worn by everyone.

“My point of view might be different than a lot of people, but when my dad had his crash, he went through his windshield from not wearing a seat belt and that had a big role as to why he isn’t here,” she said.


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