Thursday, November 21, 2019

GHSA Reports: More Than 800 Unbuckled Rear Passenger Fatalities in 2018

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November 18, 2019
CONTACT: Kara Macek, 202-789-0944
As Families Take to the Roadways, New Report Notes More Than 800 Unbuckled Rear Passengers Killed in 2018
Rear Belt Use Lower in For-Hire Vehicles
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Each year, hundreds of unbelted passengers in the back
seat of motor vehicles are killed in crashes. New federal data reveal that, in 2018
alone, 803 unrestrained rear seat passengers age eight and up lost their lives; more
than 400 of them may be alive today had they fastened their seat belts. Riders in
taxis and ride-hailing vehicles buckle up in the back less often than in private
vehicles. In one public survey, only 57% of respondents who traveled mostly in hired
vehicles reported always buckling up.

Today, the Governors Highway Safety Association released "Rear Seat Belt Use:
Little Change in Four Years, Much More to Do." This spotlight report explores adult
rear seat belt use rates, state laws and enforcement, and public education efforts.
Dr. James Hedlund of Highway Safety North, a former senior official with the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), wrote the report. Uber
provided funding for its production and design.

The report notes that, even though safety features in newer vehicles have made the
front seat safer than the rear seat in a crash, observed rear belt use nationwide
continues to lag significantly behind front seat belt use: 76% versus 90%,
respectively. Even more concerning, 31 states still lack a primary rear belt use law
for adult passengers. Rear belt use is higher in states that require it (69%) than in
states that don’t (60%). But in the past four years, only Alabama and Mississippi
have passed laws requiring adult rear seat passengers to buckle up, although in
Alabama unbelted rear seat occupants may be ticketed only if police have another
reason to stop the vehicle.

“As millions take to the road this holiday season on family car trips, and as use of
ride hailing services continues to surge, more people find themselves in the back
seat of passenger vehicles. That means it’s even more imperative that we work
together to encourage all motor vehicle passengers to take their safety seriously, no
matter the seating position,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins.

The report makes specific recommendations on how states and other stakeholders
can and should save lives by increasing rear seat belt use by adults:

  • States should pass and enforce strong laws and publicize the benefits of belt use in all seating positions;
  • For-hire vehicle services should actively promote belt use to their passengers;
  • Vehicle manufacturers should install rear seat belt use reminders; and
  • NHTSA should develop programs and finalize federal rulemaking to require rear belt reminders.

As Dr. Hedlund notes, “Collectively, these actions would go a long way toward
increasing rear seat belt use to be more on par with front seat belt use. While the
steps are straightforward, they will require persistence and commitment.”

GHSA and Uber also are partnering on other rear belt use promotional efforts. Just
last week, the groups launched National Seat Belt Day on November 14 to raise
awareness of the history of the seat belt and its lifesaving effect. The organizations
also are collaborating on a “Make it Click: Every seat. Every ride” national effort to
encourage ride-share customers, and all back-seat vehicle passengers, to always
buckle up.

For a list of current state seat belt laws, visit

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About GHSA
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit Find us on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter @GHSAHQ.
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