Mandatory seat belt laws needed for safety: New regulations can help save lives in NY state

Lauren Seltzer, Staff Writer

When you get in the car, the first thing you do is put on a seat belt, right?  It is what most of us were taught when we were younger, but not everyone is legally required to buckle up.  Currently, riders in the backseat do not have to wear seatbelts after the ages of 7-18 depending on state law.

“When I’m driving in the car with my friends, sometimes I forget to put on my seatbelt. It’s not a conscious decision, but it’s definitely unsafe and stricter laws would help prevent this more frequently,” said senior Maddy Connors.

Here in New York, the law is that all front seat passengers must wear seat belts but in the back seat, it is legal to not wear one after the age of 16.  With so many car accidents, though, especially with new and young drivers, many argue that not wearing should always be illegal regardless of age.

“Not wearing a seat belt is a danger to yourself and others.  If the car stops short you could get thrown into the driver of car, obstructing their view with your body,” said junior Danie DiRuggiero.  “If you are driving without a seat belt and need to perform quick maneuvers to avoid a collision, the seat belt will help you keep in control of your body and, by extension, the car.  This is important so that you don’t hurt yourself or others.”

In the United States alone, seat belts save 13,000 people a year from dying in car accidents.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, more than half of teens who died in car crashes in 2014 were unrestrained, or not wearing seat belts.

Teens and young adults are less likely to wear seat belts than older and younger people.  This should not come as a surprise; how many times have you gotten into a friend’s car where you squished an extra passenger in the back seat or trunk with no seat belt? While it may seem fun to ride around with everyone in the car, it is extremely dangerous.

“Not wearing a seat belt should definitely be illegal, regardless of age, because if you do not wear a seatbelt and the car crashes you could go flying into the other person or people in the car and possibly kill them or yourself,” said freshman Karlee Gulkis.

Federal law regarding seat belts allows the police to stop a driver if the passengers of the car are not buckled.  There are some secondary laws that allow for exemption from the primary law, such as  those regarding pick-up trucks.

Although the law does not currently apply to people of all ages, it is important that it does.  Not wearing a seat belt puts everyone in the car in danger, especially if the driver has to make any kind of fast turn or stop.

“I do think that not wearing a seat belt should be illegal. It’s not that much of a hassle to put one on in the first place, and I do not really find them that uncomfortable.  I know they are for my own protection anyway, and it’s more important that the other passengers and I are safe than it is to squeeze in an extra person.  Everyone should be mindful of seat belt laws and safety not only when they’re driving, but when they are riding in the car as well,” said junior Allie Chase.

To wear a seat belt is one of the most important aspects of car safety.  Along with refraining from distracted driving, it is a good way to keep the passengers of your car safe if you are driving and the driver safe if you are a passenger.  In the future, it is imperative to driving safety that the seat belt laws be modified to include all ages.

The age limit of sixteen in New York allows teenagers in high school and college to be on the roads without seat belts, which can lead to danger and trouble.  So next time you are in the car with your friends and they suggest you squeeze that one extra person in, make sure you remind them about the importance of seat belts before it is too late.