Back seat belt use lags in Georgia

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August 1, 2012 – Amber Rogers (left) takes the wheel as Leah Gaillot and Caleb Britt, students at Central Education Center, a public charter school in Cowetta County, ride in the back seat. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Rear seat passengers are three times more likely to die in a crash if they aren’t buckled up.

Yet Georgia is one of 22 states where adults in the back seat aren’t required to wear a seat belt. That’s sobering news to consider as millions of families take to the roads this week for the Thanksgiving holiday.

A new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) delves into the safety implications of not buckling up in the back seat.

In 2013, only 55% of rear seat passengers age 8 and older in fatal crashes in Georgia were wearing their seat belt, compared with 70% in the front seat.

Some other key takeaways of the report:

  • In 2013, 883 unrestrained rear seat passengers age 8 and above were killed in traffic crashes. More than 400 of them would have survived if they had buckled up.
  • By all available measures (observation, self-reported surveys, and crash data), adult belt use in rear seats is 9 to 14% lower than in the front.

Another problem cited in the report is that many people don’t buckle up when they use taxis and ride-sharing services, behaving differently than they would in their own vehicle.

The report makes five recommendations to increase rear seat belt use by adults:

  • Enact a primary enforcement rear seat belt law.
  • Enforce existing rear seat belt laws.
  • Educate the public about the importance of bucking up in the back.
  • Encourage use in taxis and ride-sharing services.
  • Boost front seat belt use (passengers in the rear are more likely to buckle up when their driver wears a seat belt).

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