The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)
The time for a rear-seat seat belt bill is now
That’s how many lives were lost on United States roads in 2016 — the most in nearly a decade.
Even more telling, 293 of those deaths occurred here in Connecticut, the most since 2010. This month, legislators have a golden opportunity to treat this public health crisis with the urgency it deserves — and one policy that could help reduce these numbers is a rearseat belt law.
Seat belts save lives, in all seats, in all vehicles. Connecticut recognized this when it passed one of the nation’s first seat belt laws in 1985. But the requirement only applied to the front seat. Today, adults age 16 and older don’t have to buckle up in the back. And according to a new AAA report, this rear-seat loophole comes with a large cost of life and limb.
AAA Northeast analyzed fatal crashes in Connecticut between 1995 and 2014. Over that period, 119 unbelted adults were killed in the back seat, while only 36 belted adults in the rear were killed. These fatalities occurred in every county across Connecticut, with young adults particularly at risk: half of the unbelted rear-seat fatalities occurred among passengers ages 16 to 24, who had the lowest rate of belt usage.
Ample scientific research corroborates these results. Rear-seat passengers who don’t buckle up, are three times as likely to be killed, eight times as likely to be seriously injured, and twice as likely to kill a front-seat passenger by becoming a “back-seat bullet”.
Legislators can help keep Connecticut residents be safe by passing a rear-seat belt law before this session ends on May 9. Recently, the Public Health Committee demonstrated leadership by unanimously voting HB 5161 out of committee. We urge the Transportation Committee to do the same and the General Assembly to approve it soon after.
Lawmakers have the support of their constituents: a recent AAA poll found 65% of Connecticut drivers support a rear-seat belt law.
Lawmakers also have support of the facts: a recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study reports a primary rear-seat belt law is the single most effective action a state can take to increase seat belt use in the back seat.
And, finally, lawmakers have the support of more than 50 public health, law enforcement and traffic safety advocates across the state to pass this bill. Among them are the AAA Clubs in Connecticut, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Yale New Haven Hospital, the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, the Connecticut Transportation Safety Research Center, and individual municipal Police Departments, who know this policy will make Connecticut roads safer.
The time for a rear-seat belt law is now.