USA Today has an article on how states are increasingly requiring rear-seat passengers to wear seat belts. This is the classic “brother’s keeper” v. individual rights issue. I fall into the former category on this subject as most Maryland accident lawyers do because they have seen what a projectile a person can become when launched from a back seat because they were not wearing their rear safety belt.
But what I found interesting about the USA today graph is the extent to which states don’t fall in line on this issue as you think they would. When I think of the West with a capital “W” I think of rugged individualism and a desire for self-determinism on these kinds of things. But the opposite is true: the wild west seems to almost uniformly accept the idea that rear seat belts should be law. Why is this? I have no idea.
What I do know is that Maryland law needs to be changed to require all rear-seat passengers to wear seat belts. At the risk of having every naysayer scream “slippery slope,” please remember we are requiring it for front-seat passengers, we require helmets on motorcycles, and this law would make just as much sense.
Accidents Where Rear Seat Belts Matter Most
Rear seat belts are important in all types of accidents. But there are certain types of crashes where rear seat belts are particularly crucial in preventing injuries and saving lives:
- Rear-end collisions: In these accidents, you are closer to impact than in a head-on crash. Rear-end accidents are common and can result in sudden, forceful impacts. Rear seat belts help restrain passengers, preventing them from being thrown forward into the front seat or other objects in the vehicle.
- Side-impact collisions: Side-impact crashes, also known as T-bone or broadside collisions, pose a high risk of injury to rear-seat passengers. Rear seat belts help secure occupants in place, reducing the likelihood of severe injuries caused by lateral forces.
- Rollover accidents: Rollover crashes can be extremely dangerous, with a high risk of ejection or severe injuries. Rear seat belts keep passengers secured to their seats, reducing the risk of being thrown from the vehicle or sustaining serious head, neck, or spinal injuries.
- Frontal collisions: Although front seat occupants may be at a higher risk in head-on collisions, rear seat passengers can still be injured if they are not properly restrained. Rear seat belts play a crucial role in preventing passengers from being thrown forward, colliding with the front seats, or being propelled out of the vehicle which is fast path to a spinal injury or death.
- Secondary impacts: In multi-vehicle accidents or chain-reaction collisions, secondary impacts can occur after the initial collision. Rear seat belts help protect occupants during subsequent impacts, minimizing the risk of additional injuries.
Rear Seat Belts Save Lives
Rear seat belts save lives and prevent serious injuries in the event of a car accident. Period. It is a fact.
When passengers in the back seat of a vehicle are not wearing seat belts, they are at a much higher risk of being injured or killed in a crash.
In many cases, people assume that they are safe in the back seat, and may neglect to wear their seat belts. However, studies have shown that this is not the case. In fact, the risk of being injured or killed in a car accident is three times higher for people in the back seat who are not wearing seat belts, compared to those who are. Nearly 60% of back seat passengers killed in motor vehicle accidents were unbuckled.
Rear seat belts work by restraining passengers in the event of a collision, which helps to prevent them from being thrown forward or out of the car. This can help to reduce the severity of injuries, or even prevent injuries from occurring in the first place.
Some argue that the decision to wear a seat belt should be a matter of personal choice and freedom. They believe that individuals should have the right to decide whether or not to wear a seat belt, including rear seat passengers. So rear seat belt passengers should get a choice and front seat passengers don’t? It is not that this is not a valid argument but has been litigated and lost.