A new law in the State of New York requires all car passengers, even those riding in the backseat, to wear a seatbelt. Before the law went into effect on November 1st, passengers over 16 years of age were not required to wear a seatbelt when they were sitting in the rear seat. With the new legislation, New York becomes the 31st state in the nation to require backseat passengers to buckle up. While the law exempts bus passengers as well as people riding in emergency vehicles like ambulances, it does not exempt passengers in taxis and other ride share vehicles.
New York’s Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee has estimated that 30% of highway fatalities in the state involve passengers who aren’t wearing seatbelts. When Governor Cuomo signed the new legislation in August, State Senator David Carlucci said: “The injuries you can sustain from not wearing a seat belt can be deadly, and that’s a fact whether you sit in the front or the back of a vehicle. With this bill signed into law, we will help prevent tragedies and save lives in New York. Thank you to the advocates, including AAA for their strong support of this legislation.”
In a press release announcing the signing, State Assemblyman Walter Mosley added: “Seatbelts are a proven way to make our roads safer and lower the number of automobile fatalities. This legislation will go a long way towards achieving that goal and ensuring that all passengers are safe when traveling.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in 2017, seatbelts saved the lives of 14,955 vehicle passengers. Of the 37,133 vehicle passengers killed in motor vehicle accidents that year, the NHTSA states, 47% were not wearing seatbelts. Fifty-one percent of male passengers killed in MVAs were not restrained, and the NHTSA estimates that 2,549 lives could have been saved by seatbelts.
In 2018, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22,697 passenger vehicle documents died in motor vehicle accidents. More than 50% of teens and adults aged 20-44 who died in motor vehicle accidents in that year were not wearing seatbelts. The CDC also states that more than 2.2 million motor vehicle occupants suffered accidents in crashes that required emergency room care, and that “young adult drivers and passengers (18-24) have the highest crash-related non-fatal injury rates of all adults.”
More information on New York’s new seatbelt law is available via the governor’s office.