Adults have gotten the message that it’s safer for kids to ride in the back seat properly restrained, but when it comes to their own safety, there is a common misperception that buckling up is optional. Among adults who admit to not always using safety belts in the back seat, 4 out of 5 surveyed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety say short trips or traveling by taxi or ride-hailing service are times they don’t bother to use the belt.
The new survey reveals that many rear-seat passengers don’t think belts are necessary because they perceive the back seat to be safer than the front. This shows a clear misunderstanding about why belts are important, no matter where a person sits in a vehicle.
Before the majority of Americans got into the habit of buckling up, the back seat was the safest place to sit, and the center rear seat was the safest place of all in 1960-70s’ era vehicles. In recent decades, high levels of restraint use, the advent of belt pretensioners, load limiters and airbags, plus crashworthy vehicle designs have narrowed the safety advantages of riding in the rear seat for teens and adults.