As Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyer Joseph Lipsky knows, there is an ongoing battle with making rear-seat passengers wear their seat belts, often time with deadly results. A recent report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that while 90% vehicle occupants wear their seat belt while seated in the front seat, back seat passengers too often fail to use seat belts, resulting in nearly eight times as many car accident personal injuries. Even more concerning is the failure of tax, Uber and Lyft riders to use seat belts.
Although most drivers and occupants know that highway car and truck accidents are a leading cause of wrongful deaths, with more than 35,000 annually, a rate of nearly 100 deaths every day, they don’t realize that the rate of car accident deaths, particularly those attributed to a lack of seat belt use actually rose almost 5% last year. The studies also show that the likelihood of an unbelted vehicle occupant dying in a fatal car accident was higher for those unrestrained riders in the back, not the front of cars.
In fact, occupants routinely admit to not wearing their seat belts in the back of vehicles. The Institute’s study found nearly 25% of those surveyed admitted to not wearing their seat belt in the back seat versus the front. Many drivers don’t realize that an unbelted occupant is also a hazard for others in a vehicle, as the unrestrained person may slam into the other occupants causing serious injuries. Researchers at the University of Virginia found that there is a more than 100% increase in the likelihood a driver will be killed by an unrestrained occupant will seated behind them.
Despite such shocking findings, incredibly, the study found more than half of taxi and Uber riders do not use their seatbelts. While nearly ¾ of passengers riding in cars driven by a friend or family member, only slightly more than half of the riders in taxis or ride shares like Uber or Lyft actually use a seat belt. Yet many states, including Florida only “require” vehicle occupants in the front seat to use a seat belt. Also, Florida does not consider failure to use a seat belt as a primary violation. This means, a police officer may only cite someone if they pulled over a vehicle for a reason other than an unrestrained driver or occupant.
Unlike front seat passengers, there are no warnings or signals in most vehicles to remind rear seat passengers to use their seat belts. The Insurance Institute found that the majority of those they questioned felt some type of warning would cause them to be more likely to use a seat belt when traveling in the rear seat.
As a personal injury attorney helping seriously injured accident victims for more than 25 years, we at the Law Offices of Joseph Lipsky agree with other advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, in hoping legislators remember that mandatory seat belt laws, including those for rear seat passengers, will save lives.