The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)

The time for a rear-seat seat belt bill is now

- By Fran Mayko and Amy Parmenter Fran Mayko is with AAA Northeast and Amy Parmenter is with AAA Allied.


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.

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