Do backseat passengers benefit from seatbelts?

When I was a kid I remember riding in the back window of the sedan, lying in the back of my father’s pickup truck or sleeping on the back seat. I turned out just fine. So did all other 80’s kids who didn’t wear bike helmets and drank from a hose, right?

Not necessarily, although cars and seat belts have come a long way. Those lap belts we had in the back of the Crown Vic are questionable. But today’s seatbelts are not. The numbers are in and seatbelts save thousands of lives every year.

Unbelted rear seat passengers kill front seat drivers

When you get behind the wheel and an adult behind you doesn’t want to wear their seatbelt you might not care. It’s their decision, right? You might want to think twice about that person behind you.

In a frontal crash, the driver is 137% more likely to die if a rear passenger isn’t belted! How is that possible? Let’s say Tony is driving and Bob is in the back seat. Tony crashes into a car that pulls out in front of him. The vehicle’s safety systems (restraints, airbag, etc) are designed to keep Tony safe. But Bob was been in the back seat eating french fries and his 220lb body slams into the back of Tony’s seat at 40MPH. If you slept through physics class, momentum is mass times velocity. Basically, Bob has a LOT of momentum and might just snap Tony’s seat right off of the floor. Put the french fries down and go eat some celery, Bob!

Even if it isn’t the law, Tony is responsible for what happens in his vehicle to some extent. If Bob gets hurt or Tony gets crushed, this was all Tony’s choice.

Don’t be like Tony.

How safe is the backseat WITH a seat belt?

No, the back seat, statistically, isn’t as safe as the front seat. Although that’s improving, passengers in the rear seat do not have airbags in front of them, and many seatbelts in the rear lack crash tensioners.

But…  The fact is that fatal injuries are reduced by 58% in sedans and 75% in SUVs for rear seat passengers who are belted. This means that when Tony T-Bones the other negligent driver, he is more likely to be fine and Bob probably is, too (if they’re both wearing a seat belt). Bob may not even spill his french fries.

In some states, rear seat passengers over the age of 18 aren’t required to wear a seat belt. But you can’t rely on a sheet of paper in a book somewhere to keep you safe. Use your brain. Even if you don’t care about your own safety, consider doing it for the people in the chair ahead of you driving you around.

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