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Backslide In Rear Seat Safety Belt Use Concerns

After four straight years of gains, rear seat safety belt wearing rates were down last year according to the latest survey by the Land Transport Safety Authority.

The 2001 national survey of rear safety belt use by adults showed that use of belts in the back seat had dropped to 70 percent from 76 percent in 2000.

Director of Land Transport Safety David Wright said it was concerning that nearly one third of adults chose not to protect themselves when travelling in the back seat.

“Front seat wearing rates hit 92 percent last year, and there's no reason we shouldn't see the same levels in the back seat. In some regions the rate of rear safety belt use is barely over 50 percent, yet in some of those same regions wearing rates in the front seats are above 90 percent.

"Maybe when people get in the back seat they somehow feel more protected and less in need of a safety belt. That can be a fatal mistake. The fact is that you are much more exposed to injury when you don't belt up - and you also pose a real danger to everyone else in the vehicle. Unrestrained people in the back seat become missiles in a crash, and they can be deadly to those in the front."

In a head-on collision, an unrestrained back seat passenger can crash into the front seat with the force of an object more than 20 times heavier than themselves, pounding those in front with the equivalent of a 2,000 kg weight.

Over the last 10 years, over 500 unrestrained vehicle passengers have been killed in crashes on New Zealand roads. Crash reports show that at least 209 of these people could have been saved if they had been wearing a safety belt at the time of the crash.

Mr Wright said that while rear seat wearing rates have increased significantly since 1996, when just 55 percent buckled up in the back, last year's drop shows there is still a great deal of work to do in changing people's behaviour.

“Progress is being made in getting the message across, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. People must remember that safety belts save lives - and that applies to the lives of people in the back seat just as well as to those up front."


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