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Study Shows Only About a Third of Backseat Passengers Wear Seat Belts

About two-thirds of the nation's back seat passengers don't wear seatbelts - at the same time that two-thirds of the nation's front seat passengers make certain they buckle up all the time, according to a survey by the Air Bag Safety Campaign.
The study also finds that drivers aren't as concerned with the people in the back seat as they are with the people up front. About 61% of the drivers say they require front-seat passengers to wear seat belts and shoulder restraints, while only 34% make the same requirement of the passengers in the back.

"Many people say they know the risks associated with being unbuckled, yet this survey shows that far too many people admit they aren't buckling up," says Janet Dewey, the campaign's executive director. "If raising awareness would get everyone buckled up, then this problem would be solved by now."

What Dewey and her organization are pushing for are standard enforcement seat belt use laws in each of the 50 states. So far, only 13 states and the District of Columbia have enacted such laws, which allow police to stop motorists and write tickets for lack of seat belt use in the same manner as they do for speeding or broken tail lights.

"Adults who don't buckle up are sending children a deadly message that it is all right not to wear a seat belt," says Dewey. "Children imitate adult behavior. Research shows that if a driver is unbuckled, 70% of the time children riding in that vehicle won't be buckled, either."

But, Dewey adds that if a driver is belted, there's a 94% chance the children will be buckled too.

The campaign says the injuries and problems suffered by unbelted passengers affect those people who are properly restrained in their vehicles. "Those who wear belts are heavily subsidizing those who don't - in higher taxes, higher health care and higher insurance costs," says Chuck Hurley of the National Safety Council.

A campaign to increase seat belt use was announced this spring by President Clinton and police chiefs across the country. The goal is to get more standard enforcement laws passed by the seats and raise the national seat belt use percentage to 85% by 2002.

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