In December hree of my former classmates were ejected from a car after they struck a parked tractor-trailer. The only person in the car wearing a seat belt, the driver, survived the fatal crash. The driver is now charged with death by auto on three counts. In New Jersey it is required by law that all passengers wear a seat belt no matter their age or where they are seated in the car.
In Florida, there is no law requiring that all passengers of all ages buckle up in the front and rear seats. All front-seat passengers must wear a seat belt; however, buckling up in the back seat is not required by law. Legislators need to look at the statistics regarding lack of rear seat belt use, and they will see that it is a huge safety issue. The risks can be reduced for all passengers if there were stricter laws regarding rear-seat belt use.
Nationwide, only 47 percent of people use their seat belt in the back seat. Rear-seat occupants in the U.S. account for almost 30 percent of moderate to severe injuries. In at least 16 states, rear seat belt use is strictly enforced.
In Florida only front-seat laws are enforced, with a maximum fine of $30 for your first offense. But what about those sitting in the back seat? There is no fine, no fee, no penalty.
In the event of a crash, a passenger who is traveling in the back seat not wearing a seat belt is 66 percent more likely to die. Why would you want to put yourself or anyone else at risk? This can be avoided by a simple click of your seat belt.
Recent studies also have shown that if passengers in the back seat are not buckled up, there is an increased risk of severe injury to the front-seat passengers. Your focus would not be on the road; it would be on the commotion in the back seat, and it could lead to deadly consequences.
It is hoped that Florida will recognize, after looking at the evidence and research, that rear-seat passenger safety is equally as vital as the safety of the passengers sitting in the front.
Seat belts greatly reduce the risk of moderate, critical and fatal injuries in car accidents. What can you do? First, never start your car until all passengers are safely buckled. Don’t forget that as the driver you are responsible for all of the passengers. Second, educate those around you about the negative results of not wearing a seat belt, no matter their position in the car. And last, remember that your voice can be heard, and you can take a stand and help in the fight to keep yourself and others safe.
The writer attends the University of Tampa.