As of May 2015, 465 people lost their lives on Georgia roadways this year. Many of these fatalities would have been preventable had the passengers buckled up.
Georgia is one of 22 states that does not require adults in the back seat to wear seat belts. For this reason, the state has seen an overall increase in roadway fatalities since 2008. The statistics are even worse for rear seat passengers–In 2013, only 55% of rear seat passengers age 8 and older in fatal crashes were wearing their seat belt, versus the 70% of those in the front seat. More than four hundred passenger deaths could have been prevented if they had worn a seat belt.
The Georgia Department of Transportation has made several efforts to increase education efforts through the Drive Alert, Arrive Alive Campaign, however, Georgia has yet to see a decline in driver and passenger deaths. Georgia is predicted to have 1,200 deaths by the end of 2015.
Published in November 2015,a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) investigates the safety implications of not buckling up in the back seat. It explains how most efforts to encourage seat belt use often focus on drivers and front seat passengers, although rear seat passengers are overlooked and often the most concerning.
The report also examines the use of seat belts in taxis. Four states–Illinois, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Vermont–do not require passengers to wear seat belts in taxis and other for-hire vehicles such as Uber or Lyft. High-profile fatal collisions such as the collisions of Bob Simon and John F. Nash, Jr. are examples of how rear passenger seat belt use can be the difference between life or death. In fact, according to a survey by the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), rear seat belt use is higher in states with a rear seat belt law (83%) than in states with no law (74%).
The GHSA report concludes with a list of ways state officials can safely and effectively encourage the use of rear seat belts:
- Enact a primary rear seat belt law in the 32 states that lack one.
- Include rear seating positions as a regular part of seat belt enforcement.
- Include rear seating positions in belt use education and public outreach.
- Include taxis and for-hire vehicles throughout their belt use programs
- Increase front seat belt use, because rear seat passengers are more likely to buckle up when the driver is belted.