Spinning our Wheels

Spinning our Wheels is a commuting blog about the challenges of getting around Atlanta by car, bus, MARTA, bicycles and on foot written by transportation reporter David Wickert

Back seat belt use lags in Georgia

Rear seat passengers are three times more likely to die in a crash if they aren't buckled up.

Yet Georgia is one of 22 states where adults in the back seat aren't required to wear a seat belt. That's sobering news to consider as millions of families take to the roads this week for the Thanksgiving holiday.

A new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) delves into the safety implications of not buckling up in the back seat.

In 2013, only 55% of rear seat passengers age 8 and older in fatal crashes in Georgia were wearing their seat belt, compared with 70% in the front seat.

Some other key takeaways of the report:

  • In 2013, 883 unrestrained rear seat passengers age 8 and above were killed in traffic crashes. More than 400 of them would have survived if they had buckled up.
  • By all available measures (observation, self-reported surveys, and crash data), adult belt use in rear seats is 9 to 14% lower than in the front.

Another problem cited in the report is that many people don't buckle up when they use taxis and ride-sharing services, behaving differently than they would in their own vehicle.

The report makes five recommendations to increase rear seat belt use by adults:

  • Enact a primary enforcement rear seat belt law.
  • Enforce existing rear seat belt laws.
  • Educate the public about the importance of bucking up in the back.
  • Encourage use in taxis and ride-sharing services.
  • Boost front seat belt use (passengers in the rear are more likely to buckle up when their driver wears a seat belt).

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