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Expert: Buckle up. No matter where you sit in the car

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A new study commissioned by the Governors Highway Safety Association finds that people are significantly less likely to buckle up in the back seat. 

And that means people are dying in traffic accidents that they might otherwise survive.

Researcher James Hedlund says of the 883 unrestrained rear seat passenger fatalities in 2013, more than 400 would likely have survived had they buckled up.

Hedlund: "People think the back seat is safer. They aren't worried about things like this. They just get in. And the back seat is only marginally safer. You certainly can be killed in the back seat."

Hedlund says people should buckle up, every time, no matter where they sit in the car - and no matter what kind of car they are in, including taxis and Uber rides. 
There's nothing "magical" about a hired ride - and most of the time, a taxi driver will not remind the customer to put on the seat belt.
Hedlund says rear seat belt use goes up in states that have a law requiring it - but many states don't.
"Michigan is among 22 states that have no law requiring adults in the back seat to buckle up," says Hedlund.  "And that's surprising because Michigan has a good law for the front seat."
Michigan has a "primary" seat belt law that allows police to stop a vehicle and cite the driver solely for the offense of not wearing a seat belt.  Some other states have a "secondary" law, which permits tickets for not wearing seat belts only if the vehicle is stopped for another reason.
Hedlund's study shows that nationally, belt use by adult rear seat passengers is only 78%, compared to 87% for the front seat, based on the latest observational data.
The discrepancy is even more pronounced in motor vehicle crashes involving a fatality: 60% rear belt use, versus 74% in the front.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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