Customers of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft often go without wearing seatbelts. The practice is dangerous for the unbuckled person, for other passengers whether buckled not and for drivers. The Pew Charitable Trusts recently described how companies and states are having trouble getting the problem under control.
America’s improved seatbelt culture has a weak spot
Laws and campaigns to get kids into back-seat booster seats have generally been a major success story. Also, about 90% of adults today wear seatbelts in the driver or front passenger seat. Granted, adults in the back seat are falling behind with only a 76% rate of buckling up, but historically even that is impressive.
But if you are a Lyft or Uber passenger, the chances are poor that you are buckling up. Exact numbers are hard to come by, partly because no federal agency keeps data on deaths and injuries for rideshare companies or taxi services.
There have been some smaller studies. One found only about 27% of taxi service customers buckled up both in Las Vegas and San Francisco. Strangely, however, in rideshare vehicles like Lyft and Uber, only 18% buckled up in Las Vegas while 52% did so in San Francisco.
Buckling up in the back seat saves everyone’s lives
There are plenty of reliable and meaningful numbers showing why backseat passengers should use seatbelts. Half as many unbelted backseat passengers would die if they used seatbelts.
Besides, not wearing a seatbelt in the back seat kills other people who are wearing seatbelts.
Pew recently quoted a safety engineer as saying, “When people don’t buckle up, they’re not just putting themselves at risk; they’re putting other people in the vehicle at risk because they become a projectile in a crash.”
Laws and warnings are slow in coming to the rescue
Only 19 states and the District of Columbia allow police to stop cars because of unbuckled backseat passengers. Another 11 allow police to issue a ticket if the stop was for another reason.
Last year, eight state legislatures considered back-seat buckle laws, but only Alabama enacted one.
Uber and Lyft have both tried approaches to encouraging passengers to buckle up or drivers to suggest it to passengers. It is unclear if the efforts have been effective.
Some observers suggest that states work with the rideshare companies to find ways to communicate. The executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association told Pew, “They have a reach we don’t have. They’ve got a gazillion customers and they reach younger people 18 to 35 who we can’t reach.”