This year, New York joins 30 other states and the District of Columbia after the State Assembly passed legislation requiring passengers 16 and older to wear a seat belt in the back seat of automobiles, including ride-sharing vehicles, such as Lyft and Uber.

The legislation was spearheaded by AAA New York State, which says 300 unbuckled back-seat passengers have died and more than 25,000 others were injured in car crashes over the past decade. The group says an average of eight people are hurt each day across the state because they are not wearing seat belts.

Wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of injury

Federal statistics show 90% of drivers and front-seat passengers dutifully buckle up on American highways. However, that percentage drops to 76% for rear-seat passengers. Even more troubling is that ride-share drivers report 70% to 80% of their riders do not use seat belts in the back seat. AAA says those who fail to buckle up:

  • Are twice as likely to be killed in a crash
  • Are eight times more likely to be seriously injured
  • Are two times more likely to kill a front seat passenger when launched forward in a crash

The Governors Highway Safety Association says in 2018, 803 rear-seat passengers age 8 and older who were not buckled up were killed in crashes nationwide. The group says more than 400 would have survived if they had worn their seat belts.

Independent studies show education is sorely needed

The federal government does not keep track of deaths or injuries involving passengers in ride-hailing vehicles or taxis. Several independent research projects in larger metropolitan areas confirm safety experts’ fears, as only 18% to 52% of taxi passengers reported wearing a belt in one 2017 study.

A telephone survey by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that only 57% of frequent taxi or ride-hailing passengers report wearing their seat belts. New York’s law goes into effect on Nov. 1, and fines for unbuckled back-seat passengers will be $50, the same as for unbuckled front-seat riders.