While most people know that using a seatbelt is mandatory, and that buckling up saves lives, the same knowledge and law does not apply to rear-seat passengers. Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyer Joseph Lipsky reminds us that unfortunately too many motorists and their passengers fail to realize that those same lifesaving benefits should be used by rear-seat passengers. This is particularly important as according to a recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, more than 800 people died last year when they did not use a rear seatbelt in a vehicle which was involved in a car accident. Whether due to convenience, discomfort or lack of education, too many rear-seat passengers fail to see the need, particularly on shorter trips, to use their seatbelt.
The study found that over the past year, seventy-five percent of rear seat passengers used a seatbelt, which was a decrease from prior years. The crash wrongful deaths were not limited to cars, which accounted for half of the unbelted fatalities, an equal number involved rear-seat passengers in trucks and vans. The study concluded that if those rear-seat passengers were using a seatbelt, more than half would have survived the car accident.
The study was based upon an investigation of police reports and the damage from thousands of car and truck accidents and compared them to federal statistics. Those federal statistics confirm that rear-seat shoulder/lap seatbelts do prevent wrongful deaths in nearly fifty percent of crashes. When analyzed for those traveling in the rear of light trucks and vans, seatbelts were more than seventy percent effective in preventing wrongful deaths. Despite the fact that those states with mandatory rear-seat seatbelt laws have a significantly greater survival rate in serious car accidents, Florida still does not have a mandatory rear-seat seatbelt law for passengers older than 18 years of age.
As a result of Florida’s failure to require rear-seat passenger belt usage, less than sixty-seven percent of rear-seat passengers actually use an available seatbelt, which puts them at a significantly greater risk of being injured or killed in a crash. In light of the advances in safety and accident prevention being developed by car manufacturers with regards to front-seat passengers, who at nearly ninety percent usage, are more prone to buckle up; the same attention to safety has not taken place regarding rear-seats and the passengers who use them.
Considering the inability to install airbags for rear-seat passengers, those riding in the second and third row of vehicles need to take greater control of their own safety by using available seatbelts. And while most vehicles have audible alarms which chime when a front seat passenger does not use their seatbelt, most vehicles do not have the same warning notifications regarding rear-seat passengers. While such alarms may not cause all rear-seat passengers to use their seatbelts, it will at the very least cause drivers to remind their rear-seat occupants to buckle up. As Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers, we can only hope that those advances and greater driver awareness will cause rear-seat passengers to use their seatbelts and be spared serious injury.