When Ralph Nader published Unsafe at Any Speed in 1965, it changed the way we thought about cars. Say what you will about Mr. Nader today, but it's because of him that vehicles have become safer and smarter over the past 46 years. And among his many legacies, perhaps Nader's most notable is the seat belt -- a safety device that can mean the difference between life and death in the event of a crash, if only drivers and passengers think to wear it.
Safety belt laws have become standard for front seat riders in the U.S., but making back seat passengers follow suit has been much, much trickier. America currently has a patchwork of state laws mandating rear set belt usage, but even in states where passengers are legally obligated to wear them, a new study shows that less than 20% actually do.
The study comes from LeaseTrader.com, which polled 1,000 adults across the U.S. and found that in states without rear seat restraint laws, only 9.6% of men and 16.3% of women buckled up in the back seat. In states with laws on the books, the numbers increased ever so slightly, to 14.3% and 18.4%, respectively. And yet, when those same people rode up front, they said that they follow the law more than 75% of the time.
The rationale that most people used to explain not using restraints in the back seat was that they simply forgot. And to a degree, that's understandable: after all, we didn't arrive at 75% compliance in the front seat overnight. It may take a while -- and perhaps another book from Mr. Nader -- to get us all onboard.
* * * * *
MANY WASHINGTON REAR-SEAT PASSENGERS STILL SAY NO TO SEAT BELTS
LeaseTrader.com Poll Finds Roughly 80% of Respondents Admit they Don’t Wear Restraints
MIAMI – (February 2, 2011) – It started out as a simple question – how often do people wear a seat belt in the back seat? Knowing that more states have enacted laws requiring rear-seat passengers to wear seat belts, LeaseTrader.com’s customer advisor specialists were curious to know how effective these laws are considering all the attention given to people in the front seat of a vehicle.
LeaseTrader.com, the nation’s most popular car leasing marketplace, polled more than 1,000 men and women each throughout the country, including states with and without rear-seat restraint laws. Adult participants in the poll said they rode in the back seat of a vehicle at least 25 times throughout 2010. Among states that have a rear-seat restraint law (Texas, Wash., Minn., Calif.), men said they wore a seat belt just 14.3 percent of the time, while women said they wore one 18.4 percent of the time. Among states that do not have a law in place (Ill., Ariz., Tenn., Neb., Penn.), the percentage dropped to 9.6 percent for men and 16.3 percent for women. Conversely, the same people polled said they wear a seat belt while in the front seat 75.2 percent of the time.
As for reasons why men and women opted against the use of a rear-seat restraint belt, forgetting to use the seat belt was the answer most often used (63.2% of all responses). Other reasons were cited, such as ‘felt it wasn’t necessary’ (13.4%), ‘didn’t think it was the law’ (9.8%) and ‘felt plenty safe without it’ (8.6%).
"What’s most disturbing is that in this day and age of always-on news coverage and awareness, there is no excuse why more people aren’t wearing seat belts in all parts of the vehicle," said Sergio Stiberman, CEO and founder of LeaseTrader.com. "Whether it’s the local television news or an online news source, we see daily images and stories of people getting hurt while driving or riding in a vehicle which should serve as a remainder of why it’s important to buckle up."
Does the driver have a responsibility to make sure all passengers are buckled up, including those in the rear seats? According to the poll, the driver did not remind back seat passengers to buckle up roughly 75 percent of the time.