You might be surprised to learn that 2013 saw nearly 900 deaths involving unbuckled passengers (over age 7) in the back seats of vehicles that were in auto accidents. This may surprise you because so many back seat passengers don’t wear seat belts, or it might surprise you to learn that not wearing a seat belt in the back seat is more dangerous than you thought. In any event, it is essential for everyone in Kansas City, Missouri to understand that no matter where you’re sitting in a moving vehicle, a seat belt could save your life.
Serious Auto Accident Injuries Occur When You Don’t Wear a Seat Belt
It is extremely common for people to mistakenly believe that they are safer in the back seat than the front seat of a
moving vehicle. The reality is that back seat passengers are killed just as easily in auto accidents in which they are not properly restrained. In fact, you are three times more likely to be killed in an auto accident as a back seat passenger if you are not wearing a seat belt, and it is estimated that more than 400 people who die in any given year who could have been saved by a seat belt. Yet, the myth remains strong in many people’s minds that the back seat is so much safer than the front seat that they don’t need to buckle up.
Part of the reason for this myth’s perpetuation could be found in the fact that many states do not have laws requiring back seat passengers to wear seat belts. The belief is so strong and pervasive that less than 80% of adults wear seat belts in the backseat, while nearly 90% wear one as passengers in the front seat. Of course, most states require that you wear a seat belt in the front seat, and you can even be pulled over in some of them for not wearing a seat belt, without any other observed offense. In Missouri, you are required to wear a seat belt as a front seat passenger, but you cannot be pulled over for not doing so. Rather, you will be fined $10 if you are found to not be wearing a seat belt when pulled over for another reason. There are no laws in Missouri requiring back seat passengers who are adults to wear a seat belt.
There are, however, laws concerning children under the age of 16 being properly restrained in the back seat, with the appropriate seat belt, car seat, or booster seat for their age, weight, and height. If you fail to properly buckle up a child, you can face a fine of up to $50. Children over the age of eight years old can typically use a regular seat belt, as long as they are at least 80 pounds and over 4’10 in height. Children who fall under these markers in age, weight, and height should be restrained in a booster seat or car seat and should not be restrained using an ordinary seat belt, without a booster seat, as this could be unsafe in an accident.
It Is Important to Wear Your Seat Belt Correctly To Prevent Injuries and Death
It is not enough to wear a seat belt if you do not wear it correctly. Provided that the passengers are over eight years old, over eighty pounds, and over 4’10, they should all wear the seat belt the way it is intended, with the shoulder strap in place, if one is available. Not all vehicles have shoulder straps included with the seat belts in the back seats. This may even further perpetuate the myth that the back seat is safer than the front seat and that wearing a seat belt is not as important for back seat passengers. If a shoulder strap is not available, you should still use the lap seat belt, as this is far better than using no restraint at all. Wearing a seat belt correctly saves more than 10,000 lives in any given year that would otherwise have been lost in auto accidents.
Yet, it is also wise to be aware that simply buckling up does not mean that you are using the seat belt correctly. Seat belts are designed to minimize the risk of internal injury by restraining passengers in such a way that the force of any auto accident will be distributed across the strongest parts of the body, which include the pelvis (lap strap) and the chest (shoulder strap). If you, your children, or other passengers aren’t wearing the seat belt correctly, then this force will not be properly distributed and the internal injuries could occur.
To prevent this from happening to you or someone you love, you must make sure that everyone is wearing their seat belts with the lap strap placed over the upper thighs. It should not be placed in such a way that it crosses the stomach instead. The shoulder strap should not be placed behind the passenger or across the passenger in such a way that it crosses the neck. If it crosses the neck, it needs to be adjusted. If the passenger is a child, and the shoulder strap crosses the neck, then he or she may still need to be in a booster seat to prevent this. The shoulder strap should cross the body, diagonally, across the shoulder, not touching the neck.
In cases where the passenger is a pregnant woman, a seat belt may be uncomfortable, but it should still be used and used correctly. Ensure that the lap strap is below the stomach, low on the hip bones, touching the thighs. The shoulder strap should still cross the body in such a way that it crosses the shoulder at the center, and it should not be placed behind you.
Were You Injured as a Passenger in a Missouri Auto Accident?
Wearing a seat belt, and wearing it correctly, can and does save lives. Yet, it does not prevent all injuries or all deaths. If you have been injured or if you have lost a loved one in a Missouri auto accident, contact the auto accident attorneys at the Krause & Kinsman Law Firm to schedule a free consultation and discuss the options available to you for recovering compensation.
Adam Krause is a personal injury, mass tort, business litigation, and employment discrimination attorney who practices in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and has been practicing law for several years now. Adam Krause has made a career of taking complicated litigation and presenting it in the most elementary terms for a jury of your peers to understand. Learn more about his experience here.