The figures are familiar: 40,000 people die each year in car accidents, the leading cause of death for people under the age of 35. Safety belts can prevent death in about half of these accidents. If you know this and are still not wearing a safety belt, you may need to ask yourself why not.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people age 5 – 34. Adult seat belt use is the single most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes. The percentage of adults who always wear seat belts increased from 80% to 85% between 2002 and 2008. Even so, 1 in 7 adults do not wear a seat belt on every trip. Primary enforcement seat belt laws make a big difference in getting more people to buckle up.
In 2010, 19 states–where 1 in 4 adult Americans live–did not have a primary law.
People sitting in back seat should use safety belts for the same reasons they should use them in the front seat: to reduce serious injuries and fatalities in a crash. Lap and shoulder belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by 44 percent among back-seat outboard occupants in passenger cars and 73 percent among back-seat outboard occupants of vans and SUVs. In a frontal crash, drivers and front-seat passengers are at increased risk of injury from unbelted back-seat passengers, and in a side-impact crash, passengers sitting adjacent to unbelted passengers are at increased risk of injury. Exposure to unbelted occupants increases the risk of injury or death to other occupants in the vehicle by 40 percent.
Unbuckled occupants “become a back-seat bullet” in a crash, says Pam Fischer, state highway traffic safety director. In collisions, experts say, unbelted passengers in the back seat continue to move at the same rate of speed as the vehicle they’re in until they hit something — seat back, dashboard, windshield or people in the front seat. Yet many view the back seat as somehow safer.