Study Reveals Concern About Seat Belt Usage

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — More people are buckling their seat belts than ever before, but a just-released study is still raising some concern.

Jessica Kartalija has the details.

Seat belt safety campaigns and stiffer penalties have more Marylanders buckling up behind the wheel.

“Today, we are seeing a 94.7 percent.  That’s almost 95% of people making it a habit to wear a seat belt.  That’s incredible,” said Elena Russo, Maryland State Police.

The good news is,while drivers are getting the message and wearing their seat belt in the front, it’s the back seat that’s cause for concern.  National traffic safety officials found only 74 percent of back seat passengers buckle up. 

Dr. Kevin Crutchfield, a neurologist at Sinai Hospital, says choosing not to can be costly or catastrophic.

“Spinal cord fractures, severing spinal cord, complete paralysis, respiratory arrest, patients on a ventilator the rest of their life because their brain survived—these are the types of things that can happen,” Crutchfield said.

Studies find being in the back seat gives passengers a false sense of security.

“If the vehicle rolls and you aren’t belted in, you are getting all sorts of trauma everywhere, and typically we see catastrophic injuries in those cases,” Crutchfield said.

Washington, D.C. law requires passengers to wear seat belts in the back seat.  Maryland does not.

“The driver and front seat passenger have to be belted in and anyone under 16 has to be belted in no matter where they sit in the car,” Russo said.

Seat belt use nationwide has reached 84 percent.

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