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New York tries curbing fatal accidents with new backseat buckling law

November promises to be an interesting month with the nation's attention on current events, many that will spill over from the previous month of October. One piece of news focuses on the first day of November with a new state law taking effect.

The New York state's seat belt law is expanding to mandate rear seat passengers 16 years and older to buckle up as well. The new requirement involves not only personal motor vehicles but also taxis and ride-shares, including Uber and Lyft.

In 1984, the Empire State became the first in the nation to require front-seat passengers to wear seat belts. Back seat restraint laws put them at 31st nationwide.

A Response to Troubling Trends

The new law is in response to statewide statistics that reveal serious injuries and deaths due to unbelted back seat passengers. One study shows that 300 were killed in accidents from 2010 to 2019, with more than 25,000 suffering injuries. Nassau County alone saw 1,675 unrestrained back seat passengers dying or injured, with Suffolk County registering a smaller number at 1,099.

A deadly misconception exists when it comes to back seat passengers being safer than their front seat counterparts. In reality, they lack the protection of airbags and other technical advantages. A study by the Governors Highway Safety Association found that rear-seat passengers are actually twice as likely to die and eight times as likely to be seriously injured.

Even more alarming is the statistic that back seat passengers are also twice as likely to kill the front seat occupant in what is referred to as the "bullet effect."

Penalties for those violating the law include fines and three driver violation points, likely a better option than injuries and fatalities.

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