DETROIT (WWJ) – A new study points to an often unexpected danger on the road — unbuckled back seat passengers.

While buckling up in the front seat has become a habit, 80 percent of people surveyed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety say they don’t buckle up when sitting in the back seat.

The survey indicates that many rear-seat passengers don’t think belts are necessary because they perceive the back seat to be safer than the front. Researcher Jessica Jermakian says thinking you’re safer in the back is a myth.

“Rear seat passengers who don’t buckle up not only put themselves at risk, but they put other people in the vehicle at risk,” she said. “We know that drivers are twice as likely to be fatally injured when the passenger behind them is unbuckled.”

According to the study, prime-age adults (35 to 54 year-olds) are the least likely to use rear seat belts, and women are more likely to go unbuckled compared to men.

When asked why they don’t buckle up, a quarter of 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 as a reason for not buckling up, and 10 percent said the belt is difficult to use or they can’t find the belt or buckle.

Nearly 40 percent of people surveyed said they sometimes don’t buckle up in the rear seat because there is no law requiring it. If there were such a law, 60 percent of respondents said it would convince them to use belts in the back seat. A greater percentage said they would be more likely to buckle up if the driver could get pulled over because someone in the back wasn’t buckled.

Aside from stronger belt laws, more than half of part-time belt users and nonusers said more comfortable belts would make them more likely to buckle up in the rear seat. They want softer or padded belts, plus shoulder belts that are adjustable so they don’t rub the neck. Tight and locking belts are turnoffs for them.


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