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Editorial: Buckle up in the back

Editorial: Buckle up in the back

New state law requiring passengers in backseats to wear seat belts would save lives
Editorial: Buckle up in the back
Photographer: Shutterstock

So you think Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to require backseat passengers to wear seat belts is just another overreach by the liberal governor of the Nanny State to intrude into our private lives.

Well, tell that to the loved ones of the 1,500 backseat passengers not wearing their seat belts who die every year in this country in motor vehicle crashes.

What’s the point, you say. You’re safe in the backseat without a seat belt, right? 

Wrong.

Of the people killed sitting in the backseats of cars involved in crashes, 55 percent weren’t wearing seat belts. 

The Governors Highway Safety Association says backseat passengers not wearing seat belts are three times more likely to die in a crash than those who are. And the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that people not wearing seat belts in the back are 30 times more likely to be ejected from the vehicle than those wearing seat belts.

But if you’re not one to be swayed by scary statistics, then go online and watch videos of what happens to passengers in the backseat who don’t wear seat belts.

First of all, you become a human missile. And when you go flying forward, you’re not just risking your own life, but the lives of the people in the front seats. 

Your big unbuckled body pushes the driver’s seat and the driver into the steering wheel and windshield, doubling the chances the driver will be killed.

If you don’t fly into the driver, you’re likely to fly out a window, either through the windshield or out the side windows.

One video of a crash in China shows a car sliding into a median strip and one of the backseat passengers slicing out of the car like a Frisbee, across two lanes of traffic into the path of a large truck.

Other videos of dash-cam footage show unbelted passengers violently being tossed about and into one another.

One video of a crash-test SUV rollover shows several passengers being thrown a dozen feet in the air, with some of them then being crushed by the SUV as it continued to roll. That’s how it happens.

Despite all this, only about 72-78 percent of us wear seat belts in the back of a car. The number is far less, about 50 percent, for passengers of cabs and ride-sharing vehicles like Uber and Lyft.

Many of us are old enough to remember when we were first required to wear seat belts. New York was the first state in the country, in December 1984, to require seat belts for drivers and front-seat passengers. 

A lot of us back then groused about it, whining about personal privacy, how uncomfortable the belts were and how they wrinkled our clothes. But for most of us now, seat belts are second nature.

Since the state law was passed, compliance in New York has gone from 63-73 percent to almost 94 percent today.

Nationwide, seat belts save about 15,000 lives a year. Another 2,500 could be saved if more people buckled up.

Already, 29 other states require passengers in the backseat to wear seat belts.

New York should become the 30th.

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