Seat belts can save drivers', passengers' lives in crashes

Seat belts save 300,000 since becoming mandatory 50 years ago

Seat belts have saved 300,000 lives since they became mandatory 50 years ago. But even today, millions of people don’t buckle up, especially in the back seat.

Tyler Elzey, 19, and his best friend, Harrison, went for short ride. They were in the back seat with no seat belts on. The driver of the vehicle lost control and crashed, killing them. It was difficult for Elzey’s mother to hear the news.

"Tyler and Harrison basically became projectiles. Their heads hit each other. He suffered multiple skull fractures. Not wearing a seat belt can make you a lethal weapon,” said Suzanne Elzey, Tyler’s mother.

Even though Texas requires people to wear a seat belt, it’s estimated one-fourth to one-third of back seat passengers don’t buckle up. Young people are the worst offenders.

"People may think it's OK to be unbelted in the back seat, or skip the belt altogether if it's just a short trip. Well, that's just wrong,” said Jon Linkov, with Consumer Reports.

Most fatal car crashes happen within 25 miles of home, and being unbuckled in the back seat increases your risk of dying in a crash to three times what it is if you have your seat belt on, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Unbuckled passengers in the back seat also pose a danger to people buckled up in the front.

“Unbelted passengers in the back can be flung forward in a crash with such tremendous force that they can injure or even kill the people in the front,” Linkov said.

Suzanne started a website called cruisesafe.org to educate teens about seat belt safety. 

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