Q: Who's the worst person to have in your backseat? A: The one who's not wearing a seat belt.
In a 30 mile-per-hour crash, an unbelted backseat passenger flies forward with 3.5 tons of force – enough to crush the belted driver and passengers in the front, according to a Tokyo University study of 100,000 crashes. In fact, the risk of death for belted front-seat drivers and passengers increased fivefold when backseat occupants skipped the belt.
While that study is old (2002), new data released this week from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) and our own PEMCO Poll confirmed that despite laws addressing seatbelt use in every state, passengers in the back still don't always buckle up. And it's more than you'd think – in our poll, 18% of respondents in Washington and Oregon fessed up that they sometimes skip the backseat belt.
Reasons ranged from "I forgot" (25%) to "I couldn't find it" (35%). Most of the rest said it wasn't worth the hassle on a short trip.
IIHS had another theory for that last group. You could call it the Uber effect. According to IIHS data, four out of five passengers in taxis and rideshare vehicles don't always buckle up for short hops. That's significantly more bucklescoffs than in private cars. Also, about a quarter claimed they didn't need to buckle up in the backseat because they believed it's a safer place to ride than the front seat.
The big takeaway: Even as cars get safer and the sharing economy changes the way we use them, some rules never change (beginning with the rules of physics). Seatbelt. Every time. Every seat.
See the complete PEMCO Northwest Poll, in which Seattle's FBK Research surveyed 1,200 Washington and Oregon residents.