Drivers should ask passengers in their vehicle to buckle up, even when those passengers will be sitting in the back seat. New York Times reports indicate many motorists believe sitting in the back is safer and no seat belt is required. Passengers in the back are still vulnerable to the laws of physics, and can suffer serious injury when a crash causes them to be thrown around the car due to the vehicle impact.
Passengers should be aware of the risk of being unbuckled, no matter what their position in the car. This is true not just when in a vehicle with friends, but also when in a vehicle like a taxi or chauffeured car driven by a transportation service. Many people believe they are safe when being transported by a professional driver but collisions may still occur.
When an accident happens as a passenger, someone else is considered responsible for the crash. This may be the operator of a motor vehicle the passenger was riding in, or the operator of another car on the road. The passenger should consult with a car accident lawyer to determine who is to blame and to pursue a claim for compensation for losses.
Passengers Should Buckle Up, Even In the Back
Despite nationwide laws requiring seatbelt use, almost half of all states in the U.S. allow adult passengers in the back to go unbelted if they wish to do so (Kentucky is not one of those states - the State Police website indicates you must be buckled as a Kentucky passenger). This contributes to the myth that a person sitting in the back of a car is safer than in the front of a car.
The recent death of Noble Prize winning John Nash and his wife are drawing attention to the risks faced by unbelted passengers in the back of a car. ABC News reported Nash and his wife were in a taxi at the time when an accident occurred.
Taxis are obliged to have seat belts in the back seat for passengers, but many passengers choose not to wear them. One survey conducted last year found 62 percent of people riding in the back of a taxi did not wear a seat belt while in the car. Facial injuries caused by a failure to wear a seat belt in taxis are so common they actually have been named by emergency room personnel. ER doctors call the injuries "partition face" because passengers slam their face hard into the partition separating the passengers from the driver and suffer serious injuries as a result.
Passengers are also less likely to wear seat belts in car services like limousines and town cars. Earlier this year, a CBS correspondent was killed while unbuckled in the back of his town car. In 1997, the high profile deaths of Princess Diana and her boyfriend occurred when she was in the back of a chauffeured limousine without a seat belt on.
Whether a passenger in a taxi, a limo, or a friend's car, passengers should be buckled up. However, being unbuckled does not mean a passenger cannot pursue a claim for injury compensation. Even when a passenger is not wearing a seat belt, a driver who negligently causes a crash is still responsible for injuries the passenger may sustain.