HARTFORD, CT — Twenty-eight states require back seat passengers in motor vehicles to wear seat belts and it is time Connecticut joined the movement, a traffic safety expert told the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee at a public hearing on Monday.
“The single most effective way to reduce death and serious injury caused by a motor vehicle crash is the use of a seat belt,” Neil Chaudhary said.
Chaudhary is a researcher with Preusser Research Group, a company that specializes in traffic studies. He also serves as a member of Connecticut’s Safe Teen Safe Driving Committee and DUI task force.
Chaudhary testified in support of legislation proposed by Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, R- Newtown, who is proponent of a bill “to promote safety for passengers in the back seat of a motor vehicle by requiring such passengers to wear seat belts.”
The bill, H.B. 6054, has been raised in past years, but hasn’t made it into law.
It is time for Connecticut to join the growing list of states to require back seat passengers to wear seat belts both Chaudhary and Bolinsky told the committee.
Chaudhary said that states “that have all seat positions laws have higher seat belt use in all seating positions than states that do not.”
The most recent two years of crash data from Connecticut, Chaudhary said, indicate that for those who were killed or seriously injured in a crash, “78 percent were restrained when they seated in the front seat but only 37 percent were restrained when seated in the back seat.”
“The passage of an all seat position, all occupant law would have a positive impact on the state. My analysis indicates that if we can bring rear seat belt use rates up to the same level as the front seat belt use rate, which is the real goal with this sort of law, we can expect to eliminate about 25 percent of rear seat serious injuries and fatalities.”
Bolinsky added that the unrestrained passengers in the back seat increase the chance of death for front seat passengers, stating that back seat passengers not wearing seat belts “become projectiles in a manner of speaking.”
State Transportation Commissioner James Redeker has made that some argument — that back seat passengers become “projectiles” — when testifying in favor of the back seat seat belt legislation in past legislative sessions.
Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, a member of the Transportation Committee, asked Bolinsky who would get the ticket — the driver or the unbelted rear seat passenger — if the proposed legislation eventually became law.
Bolinsky answered that would be worked out if the legislation moves out of committee and out for a full vote in the House and the Senate.