Back-seat safety belts save lives
BATON ROUGE – A recently completed study conducted for the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission (LHSC) found that back-seat passengers who buckle up sharply increase their chance of surviving a crash.
The research found that one of the most significant ways in which safety belts save lives and reduce severity of injuries is by preventing occupants from being ejected from a vehicle involved in a crash. The study by Dr. Helmut Schneider of Louisiana State University predicted that at least 22 lives could have been saved in 2007 by preventing rear-seat occupants from being ejected in crashes.
”Safety belts are the most effective means of reducing deaths and serious injuries in traffic crashes,” Schneider said in the study. “Because seat belts lessen the severity of injuries during a crash, the average medical costs associated with the injury of an unbelted driver is over 60 percent greater than the costs of a belted driver.”
According to the Highway Safety Group at LSU, the estimated costs associated with fatalities and injuries from not wearing a seat belt was $950 million or about $333 for every licensed driver in the state in 2007.
Other studies cited in the LSU research found conclusive evidence of a correlation between fatalities occurring in traffic crashes and seat belt usage of occupants in the back seat. The risk of death for front-seat occupants increases when the back-seat passengers are not buckled up because the unrestrained passenger becomes a projectile in the case of a crash. The risk of death for drivers and front-seat passengers increased about five-fold when rear-seat occupants were unrestrained, according to a study in 2002.
The LHSC recommends that all vehicle passengers buckle up regardless of where they are seated in the vehicle. Louisiana law requires drivers and front-seat passengers to wear their seat belts and for children to be seated in age-appropriate restraints.
“Buckling up takes only seconds to do but doing so can save your life or greatly reduce the severity of injury if you are involved in a crash,” LeBlanc said. “The LSU Highway Safety Group’s study drives home the message that wearing seat belts is important for everyone that’s in a vehicle.”
Although Louisiana law requires front-seat passengers and drivers to wear seat belts, the state’s 75.5 percent usage rate last year was significantly below the national average. A survey conducted in Louisiana last year estimated that that an average of only 27 percent of rear-seat passengers were buckled up.