Seat belt bill would require everyone to buckle up – even in the back seat

From left: Lauren Paterno of AAA New York Government Affairs; Assemblyman Walter Mosley; Sen. David Carlucci; backseat crash survivor Laura Casellini, and Dr. Kurt Edwards, chief of Trauma and Critical Care at Albany Medical Center urge legislators and the governor to adopt a new law requiring backseat passengers to use a seat belt to prevent more deaths.

The New York State Senate advanced legislation on Tuesday that would require all adults to wear their seat belts when riding in the back seat of a motor vehicle. The legislation passed the Assembly on February 12 and now awaits action by the governor.

Senator David Carlucci, D-New City, sponsored the Senate bill (S.4336) in an effort to limit deaths from not wearing a seat belt in the wake of car accidents. Walter Mosley, D-Brooklyn, sponsors the bill in the Assembly (A.6163).

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belt use in passenger vehicles saved almost 15,000 lives in 2017, but an additional 2,549 lives could have been saved if they had buckled up.

This bill would prevent any person 16-years-old or over ride in the back seat of a motor vehicle, unless they are restrained by a safety belt.

According to the bill memo, “extensive research” has shown that unbelted rear seat passengers can kill and injure others. A 60-pound unbelted passenger traveling in the rear seat would exert a force of approximately 2,700 pounds, or more than one ton, into the driver’s seat in a head-on crash at 30 miles per hour.

The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee has indicated that thirty percent of highway deaths in New York State occurred to occupants who were unrestrained. This is a greater factor than alcohol or excessive speed. The legislation stresses that the proposed law is meant to keep passengers inside the cabin of the vehicle during a crash and to keep those in the backseat from injuring the driver and front-seat passenger.

“If you fail to buckle up in the backseat, experts say you are two times more likely to be killed and eight times more likely to be seriously injured,” said Carlucci.

According to the state’s Occupant Restraint Law, only the driver and front-seat adult passengers are required to wear a seat belt or face a $50 fine. Currently, only minors under age 16 must wear a seat belt and comply with vehicle height and weight recommendations.

In 2017 a law was passed (A.01258/ S.05749) making front seat passengers at any age wear a seat belt when traveling in a taxi and other chauffeur vehicles.

“This legislation seeks to proactively prevent future fatalities and serious injuries in automobile crashes by enacting stronger seat belt standards and ensuring that all occupants in vehicles are properly protected,” said Senator Timothy Kennedy, D – Buffalo, who is the current chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation.

After being passed by the Senate and Assembly, the bill now awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature. If it becomes a law New York will join 30 other states and the District of Columbia with back seat belt laws.