You know you’re a back seat driver when you take a Lyft or an Uber. Almost everybody is. But surprisingly few people are taking the most basic precaution to protect their safety when riding in the back seat: buckling up.
Did you know that an unrestrained back seat passenger is almost eight times more likely to be seriously injured than one who is wearing a seat belt? Yet many people don’t routinely wear seat belts in the back seat. And, failing to buckle up is even more common when people take taxis or ride-hailing services.
The back seat just seems safer to many people. It isn’t.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 803 unrestrained back seat passengers over 8 died in car crashes last year. Of those, 400 would probably have survived if they had been wearing seat belts.
Due to a lack of data, it is unclear how many of those back seat passengers were in taxis or ride-hailing vehicles. Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts, identified at least one case where a ride-hailing passenger was killed. He was riding in the back seat of a Lexus SUV when a pickup truck crossed the median and struck the vehicle. The passenger, who was wearing no seat belt, was ejected from the vehicle and killed.
Keeping you from being ejected from a vehicle is a crucial element in what makes a seat belt important. Even back seat passengers can be thrown through the windshield and out onto the roadway. There, the person is likely to suffer injury and may even be struck by another car.
The law requires seat belts in the back in most states, including Alabama
Thirty-one states require all adult back seat passengers to wear seat belts. In 2019, eight state legislatures tried to pass similar laws, but only Alabama succeeded. Our new law makes failure to buckle up in the back seat a secondary offense.
Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is considering requiring reminder technology in new vehicles. This could include lights or bells that would go off when someone sits in the back seat but doesn’t buckle up. Unfortunately, the effort has been stalled for several years.
What would change this dangerous behavior?
What else could we do to instill the importance of buckling up in the back seat? The Governors Highway Safety Association, Volvo and Uber teamed up last year to get the word out. Working with eight states, they crafted news releases, social media messages and in-app pop ups to convince people of the need to buckle up.
During the last couple of weeks in November, about 10 million Uber riders per week saw these messages.
Whether those messages will be effective is still open to question. The Governors Highway Safety Association will evaluate the campaign when it begins work on a repeat performance next year.
What you need to know is this: you’re only safer in the back seat if you wear your seat belt. If you don’t, you put yourself and others at risk.
“When people don’t buckle up, they’re not just putting themselves at risk; they’re putting other people in the vehicle at risk because they become a projectile in a crash,” said a spokesperson for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Don’t get ejected from the vehicle. Buckle up in the back seat.