Study finding: Adults not always using safety belts in the back seat

Study finding: Adults not always using safety belts in the back seat
ARLINGTON—Adults have gotten the message that it’s safer for kids to ride in the back seat properly restrained, but when it comes to their own safety, there’s a misperception that buckling up is optional.

Among adults who admit to not always wearing safety belts in the back seat, four out of five surveyed by the Virginia-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said short trips or traveling by taxi or ride-hailing service are times they don’t bother to use the belt.

The study findings released Aug. 3 reveal that many rear-seat passengers don’t think belts are necessary because they perceive the back seat to be safer than the front.

“For most adults, it’s still as safe to ride in the back seat as the front seat, but not if you aren’t buckled up,” explained Jessica Jermakian, an IIHS senior research engineer and a co-author of the study. “That applies to riding in an Uber, Lyft or other hired vehicle, too.”

IIHS surveyed adults 18 and older in the summer of 2016. Of the 1,172 respondents who said they had ridden in the back seat of a vehicle in the past six months, 72 percent said they always wear their belts in the back seat, while 91 percent said they always wear their belts when seated in front.

“We wholeheartedly support IIHS’ and other efforts to emphasize the importance of seat belt use for drivers and for all passengers,” said Darlene Wells, executive vice president and general manager of the Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co., which is an IIHS member. “Using a lap and shoulder belt can cut your risk of a fatal injury by 60 percent in a van, pickup truck or SUV and by 45 percent in a car, and it’s one of the simplest precautions a driver or passenger can take.”

The institute is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing losses from crashes on the nation’s roads. It is wholly supported by auto insurers and insurance associations.

When asked why they don’t buckle up, a quarter of IIHS study respondents said they believe the rear seat is safer than the front. The next most popular reason was that using a belt isn’t a habit or they forget about it or simply never or rarely use it. Twelve percent cited uncomfortable or poorly fitting belts, and 10 percent said the belt is difficult to use or they can’t find it. People who reported that most of their trips as a rear-seat passenger were in hired vehicles were more likely to report not always wearing their safety belts.

Forty-nine states, including Virginia, require adults in the front seat to use belts. All rear-seat passengers are covered by laws in 29 states. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that seat belts saved 13,941 lives in 2015.

Details of the IIHS study findings are available at iihs.org/iihs/news/desktopnews/adults-admit-to-not-always-using-safety-belts-in-the-back-seat-iihs-survey-finds.

Media: Contact Jermakian at 703-247-1582 or Russ Rader, IIHS senior vice president of communications, at 703-247-1530.


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