New York State may have led the way in passing seat belt laws, but traffic experts from AAA insist that it has since fallen behind. The organization is pushing state legislators to tighten seat belt laws so that back-seat passengers 16 years and older would be required to wear a seat belt.
When former Governor Mario Cuomo signed the nation’s first-ever seat belt law in 1984, it did not apply to passengers in the back seat over the age of 8. The law was later amended to include passengers up to age 16, but according to Alec Slatky, AAA Northeast’s legislative representative, that is no longer enough.
“When you have more people buckling up in the back, you have fewer people dying and getting seriously injured,” he told the Democrat and Chronicle.
A report released by AAA in late May revealed that between 1995 and 2014, 886 unbelted rear-seat occupants ages 16 and up were killed, which includes at least one death in every county in New York. The report also claimed that almost half those deaths could have been avoided if the passenger had been wearing a seat belt. According to AAA, a passenger in the back seat who does not buckle up is three times more likely to be killed in a crash and eight times more likely to be seriously injured. An unbelted back-seat passenger is also twice as likely to kill a front-seat occupant by becoming a projectile.
Unbelted back-seat passengers are particularly common among teens ages 16 to 18, with less than 40% buckling up. Currently, 29 states require back-seat passengers over 16 to buckle up. Brooklyn Senator Martin Malavé Dilan and Assemblyman Walter T. Mosley introduced bill S1535C (A2449B in the Assembly) to the transportation committee in January in the hopes of getting New York to join the list of states updating its seat belt laws, but the bill failed to make it to a vote before the end of session on June 16. Dilan has introduced similar bills since the 2009-2010 legislative session, but none have ever made it for a vote in the Senate and only one passed in the Assembly.
A second bill by Mosley, A1595A, which has also struggled to get out of committee since 2009, would require passengers in taxis and livery cars to buckle up. Slatsky said he sees both bills as a long-term goal.
Seat belts are a safety concern with potential legal consequences. In New York, a seat belt violation typically carries with it a fine of up to $150. In addition, if the unsecured passenger is a child, the driver will receive three points against his or her license. If you or someone you love have received a ticket for unrestrained passengers or any other traffic violation in New York, contact the Rosenblum Law Firm for assistance. Adam H. Rosenblum and his team have experience reducing and removing such charges. Email or call 888-883-5529 for a free consultation today.