Unfortunately for the state of Arizona, the statistics show that people in the backseat buckle their seat belts at a much lower rate than those in the front seat.
Passengers in rear seats are three times more likely to experience a fatal car crash if they are not buckled up. Drivers wearing seat belts are more than twice as likely to be killed in a frontal crash when an unbelted person in the backseat is thrown forward.
With Arizona having seen road fatalities increase over 7 percent since 2015, safety advocates wonder what is keeping officials from instituting a rear seatbelt law.
“The National Safety Council has repeatedly called for every state to pass a primary seatbelt law in every seat of the car including the rear,” said Maureen Vogel, a spokeswoman for the National Safety Council.
Mesa paramedic and firefighter Captain Tim Burleson also saw the impact on victims first hand, after responding to at least 250 crashes throughout his career.
He has witnessed bodies ejected from vehicles, sometimes over 50 feet away. Burleson recalled once having used thermal imaging cameras where a crash had taken place because the victims had been thrown out of the car, and they could not locate them.
“The bodies will find an exit to leave that vehicle,” said Burleson. “It always amazes me is how a human body can fit into a tight space. Imagine where your feet are in a car and a whole person, an adult folded up into that small area.”
When asked if Burleson felt Arizona should put a rear seatbelt law into effect, he called it a “no-brainer.”
The latest crash statistics listed by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety indicated that almost a third of the 962 people who died in a car crash in 2016, 329 people were not wearing a seatbelt.
“We know that people will change their behavior if we have a stronger law in place,” said Maureen Vogel, a spokeswoman with the National Safety Council.
The current law is that both the passenger and driver should buckle up in the front seats.
Alberto Gutier with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety said their research showed 87 percent of Arizona drivers were following the front seatbelt law. If that is the case, we are questioning why not enforce the same law for back seat passengers as well?
Gutier said he would support a law of this type, but it would require a state lawmakers support the cause and propose it in the legislature first.
There are currently 29 states and the District of Columbia that have laws requiring backseat passengers buckle their seatbelts.