If there is one downside to cheaper gas prices and economic recovery, this must be it: The Governors Highway Safety Association reports traffic fatalities have jumped 8.1% during the first half of 2015 as compared to the same period last year.
While the benefits of an improved economy and cheaper gas prices have put more cars back on the road, GHSA points to three driver behaviors that contribute to a majority of fatal incidents, impaired driving, failure to buckle up and excessive speed.
In 2013, 883 unbelted rear-seat passenger vehicle occupants age 8 and older died in traffic crashes in the United States. GHSA took a closer look at the data and issued a report in November 2015 – Unbuckled in Back: An Overlooked Issue in Highway Safety. The report examines rear seat belt use, state laws and enforcement and public education efforts. It also includes a list of recommendations to help states boost rear-seat belt use through programs and policies.
Following are five suggested state actions:
- Enact a primary rear seat belt law in the 32 states that do not have one
- Include rear seating positions as a regular part of seat belt enforcement
- Include rear seating positions in belt use education and public outreach
- Include taxis and for-hire vehicles throughout their belt use programs
- Increase front seat belt use, because rear-seat passengers are far more likely to buckle up when the driver is belted
GHSA notes that the high-profile deaths of CBS News’ Bob Simon and A Beautiful Mind mathematician inspiration John Nash and his wife, Alicia, along with the proliferation of ride-sharing services provide impetus to further examine this issue. The Nashes, like Simon, were killed in a crash when they were riding unbelted in the back seat of a service vehicle.
“Too many adults mistakenly believe that they are somehow magically protected in the back seat when they get into a for-hire vehicle,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins in a news release. “Convincing adults to buckle up, every trip, in every seat, will require a concerted effort among lawmakers and highway safety professionals, but the lives saved will be well worth it.”
GHSA says rear-seat belt use was measured at 78% in 2013, nine percentage points below front-seat use. The agency estimates 436 lives would have been saved with 100% rear belt usage.
Adkins said he is heartened by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s plans to focus on human factors, the critical cause of 94% of traffic crashes.