New York Legislators Should Buckle Down on Seat Belt Safety in Budget

AAA Analysis Finds 27 Unbuckled Rear Seat Occupants 16+ Killed in New York in 2016

Police Lights by Scott Davidson
Police Lights by Scott Davidson

In 2016, the number of unbelted rear seat injuries suffered by adults in New York increased for the first time this decade, finds a new analysis by AAA New York State.  In 2016, 27 unbelted rear seat occupants ages 16+ were killed and 2,435 were injured, 211 seriously, according to data obtained from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research.  Preliminary data for 2017 shows a second consecutive increase.

In total, 10% of unbelted rear seat passengers age 16+ involved in injury crashes were killed or seriously injured, compared with only 4% of belted rear seat passengers of the same age.

“Riding unbelted in the back dramatically raises your risk of injury or death,” said Theresa Podguski, AAA East Central Director of Legislative Affairs. “But such risky behavior affects others as well.  Unbelted rear seat passengers can turn into lethal projectiles that kill other occupants.  Seat belts are essential safety features, and they should be mandatory in New York.”

AAA urges New York State legislators to approve a lifesaving rear seat belt requirement in this year’s budget, as proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.  Currently, only children younger than 16 are required to buckle up.  The Senate and Assembly one-house budget actions are scheduled for release on March 14, and the budget is due by April 1.

Rear seat belt laws are effective.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that states with rear seat belt laws consistently boast higher usage rates than states without such laws.  Moreover, recent research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that most people who don’t always buckle up in the back would be more likely to do so if there were a seat belt law.

Seat belt use unequivocally reduces risk of injury and death for all vehicle occupants.  Rear seat occupants who fail to buckle up are:

  • 3x more likely to be killed
  • 8x more likely to be seriously injured
  • 2x more likely to kill a front seat occupant by becoming a projectile         

These patterns are replicated in New York.  In 2016, only 28% of adults in the rear seats of vehicles involved in injury crashes failed to buckle up, but unbelted occupants suffered:

  • 87% of fatalities
  • 46% of serious injuries

About AAA New York State:
AAA New York State is a federation of five New York AAA clubs – AAA East Central, AAA Western & Central NY, AAA Northeast, AAA Hudson Valley, and AAA Northway.  Collectively, these clubs serve more than 2.7 million AAA members residing in New York State. 

AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 80 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members.  News releases are available at  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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