Is it Law to Wear Seat Belts in the Back?

seat belts injury lawyers

There is no doubt, seat belt use saves lives. Since the passage of laws requiring front seat belt use, the majority of Americans have made it a habit to buckle up (at least when they are sitting in the front seat). Data shows an almost 91% national use rate for 2019.

Recent data also shows a 14% difference between front seat belt use (89%), and not wearing a seat belt in the back seat (75%). Experts say there are two main reasons for the difference:

  • Twenty-two states and territories do not mandate the use of seat belts in back seats.
  • Law enforcement and public information outreach efforts also seem to take a “back seat” approach when it comes to buckling up in the rear seat.

Unbuckled Back Seat Injury Statistics

Statistics compiled by state agencies, national traffic accident prevention associations, and others all agree that passengers not wearing a seat belt in the back seat are two to three times more likely to die in a car crash.

Nationally, in 2018, 400 out of 803 deaths of unbelted back seat occupants age eight or older could have been avoided.

Missouri’s State Highway Patrol data shows that only about 60% of back seat occupants in passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes used seat belts.

Back Seat Passenger Injuries

Three seconds is all it takes to fasten your seat belt. Failure to buckle up in the back can lead to serious and even deadly injuries.

In addition to the statistics that show back seat passengers are two to three times more likely to die in an accident, car crash tests show injuries sustained by back seat passengers are more severe when compared to front seat passengers in the same vehicle.

Serious back seat passenger injuries can result from crashing into the seat in front of them, other passengers, the steering wheel, or the dashboard. Types of injures can involve not only broken bones but also head, abdominal, chest, cardiovascular, spinal, and pelvis injuries, just to cite a few examples.

Back Seat Seat Belt Laws in Missouri

Missouri does not have a back seat seat belt law for everyone. Children ages 4 through 15 must wear seat belts regardless of where they are seated (front or back). This is a primary law, meaning drivers can be pulled over and ticketed if there are unrestrained children (ages 4 through 15) in the car.

Back seat passengers 16 years or older do not have to wear a seat belt in Missouri, but they must wear one if they are in the front seat. This is a secondary law, which means a police officer cannot stop and ticket you unless the officer observed a separate violation, such as speeding, failure to yield, etc.

Missouri tried and failed in 2015 to upgrade its secondary seat belt law to a primary law. The status of this legislation is currently not clear.

Risks of Not Wearing a Seat Belt in the Back Seat

Back seat passengers not wearing a seat belt in the back seat are two to three times more likely to die in a car crash. So, why are people willing to take the risk?

When asked, people surveyed gave the following reasons for not buckling up in back:

  • 80% Short and/or Uber/Lyft/taxi trip
  • 68% Comfort and convenience
  • 52% Forgot
  • 28% No law
  • 33% Too crowded in the back seat
  • 24% Others not belted

Ideas to Get People to Buckle Up in the Back Seat

Many straightforward ideas for increasing rear seat belt use have been suggested. Here are just some ideas that can be implemented rather easily:

  • Pass primary seat belt requirement and enforcement laws in states that do not currently have them.
  • Upgrade from primary to secondary laws in states with only secondary laws.
  • Include rear seating positions in seat belt use education and public outreach.
  • Promote seat belt use in for-hire vehicles such as taxis, limousines, Uber, and Lyft
  • Increase fines or points on a driver’s license for violating seat belt laws.
  • Require vehicle manufacturers to install back seat belt use reminders.
  • Use media campaigns in combination with increased police efforts, such as checkpoints.

Contact Sansone & Lauber to Get Help with Your Car Accident Injury

At Sansone & Lauber, our attorneys have extensive experience representing drivers and passengers involved in car accidents. We work hard to protect people in Missouri and Illinois from the unsafe and negligent acts of others.

We will listen carefully to your concerns and offer trusted guidance. Hiring us will show the insurance company that you are serious about being treated fairly. We have helped many people recover full and fair compensation for their car accident injuries.

Your consultation is free. Call us today or contact us online.