The importance of back-seat safety belt use


back seat safety belt being fastened by a woman passenger

The last time you used a taxi, a ride-hailing service or jumped in the backseat of a friend’s car, did you buckle up? If you did, good for you, but you are in the minority. Four out of 5 adults surveyed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) say they don’t bother to use a seat belt for short trips. Even more troubling, many who responded said that one of the reasons they don’t buckle up is the false idea that the back seat is safer; others say they simply forget. False assumptions and forgetfulness can have tragic results: IIHS says that more than half of the people who die in passenger vehicle crashes in the U.S. each year are unbelted. Safety belts saved 13,941 lives during 2015.

Drivers: Require rear seat belt use

Many front seat riders have gotten in the habit of seat belt use because it is mandated by law in most states, but back seat use is only required by law in 29 states. Plus, many cars have reminders, warnings and alerts for front-seat use, but such reminders usually aren’t available for back seat passengers. If you’re a passenger, try to make this a habit. If you are the driver, it’s up to you to enforce it with your passengers.

If you are uncomfortable requiring your backseat passengers to belt up, be aware of this: Unbelted backseat passengers are a safety hazard to the driver.

“The odds of death for a belted driver seated directly in front of an unrestrained passenger in a serious head-on crash was 2.27 times higher … than if seated in front of a restrained passenger. In contrast, a belted driver seated in front of an unrestrained passenger in a driver-side lateral-impact crash had no increase in mortality over a driver with a restrained rear-seat passenger…”

If you are buckled in as the driver, but the passenger who is riding behind you is not, they can be very dangerous. In an accident, their body can be propelled into you or other passengers, causing severe, preventable injuries. As a driver, you should mandate backseat safety belt use – if the passenger complains, tell them it is not only for their safety, but for your safety and the safety of others in the car, too!

Check your tires: It’s National Tire Safety Week


This week is National Tire Safety Week — and before you embark on all those summer day trips and vacations, it’s the perfect time to check your tires to be sure they are roadworthy and will offer you the best driving security.

According to the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association, tires are safer than ever due to new tire technologies. Government data shows that tire-related crashes decreased by more than 50 percent between 2007 and 2010. Better technologies have led to reduced rolling resistance and better stability and traction in wet road conditions. Plus, “run flat tires” can keep working for up to 50 miles after a puncture.

But to keep tires at peak performance, there are a few best practices, summarized in an excerpt from a tire fact sheet infographic provided by the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association, which offers more information on tire safety.

For more on the care, maintenance and safety of your tires:

How old are your tires? – How to check the age

Tire rating lookup – good to check before you buy new tires.

Tirewise – everything you need to know about buying and maintaining tires.

The life of a tire – We posted this clip a few years back, but think it is well worth recycling – it’s only about 90 seconds, and gives a good overview of what you need to know.

How to test and maintain your tires – Although this prior post focused on prepping tires for winter, there’s a handy infographic that sums up the essentials of what you need to know about taking care of your tires.

Does your new car have a spare tire? Don’t count on it! – Did you know that more than a third of all new car models are being sold without a spare tire? You don’t want to be caught short on the highway. Buyer beware: If you are in the market for a new vehicle, check to see if a spare tire is included. If not, a tire may be available as a purchase option.

Yikes – Massachusetts has some really bad drivers


bad driver

File this under “dubious distinctions”: Boston drivers, you are the worst! Your drivers are 157% more likely to get in a crash than the national average – they get in about one accident every three years. In a list of the 200 largest cities, you come in dead last at #200.

Worcester, you aren’t much better – you come in at #199. And no smirking from you, Springfield – you have the 5th worst driving record!

The honors for the city with the nation’s safest drivers goes to Kansas City, where drivers are 24.8% less likely than the average U.S. driver to get in a crash.

The ranking is from Allstate’s annual “America’s Best Driver Report.” You can read a summary of our miserable record at Boston.com’s story: Bostonians crash more than twice as often as the average driver

The only consolation is that despite the number of bad urban drivers in the state, Massachusetts did not make the list of the 10 states with the worst driving records.

Hey, all you bad drivers – here’s some advice from “Uncle Bob”: 70 Rules of Defensive Driving

Slow down: International TV spots promoting safe driving speeds


It’s interesting to see how some other countries approach the issue of on-the-road safety through public safety announcements (PSAs). It’s not uncommon for spots to be much more graphic or dramatic in content than we would tend to run here in the U.S. We’ve chosen a sampling of PSAs aimed at speeding that are dramatic but not especially graphic. (Alert: they can still be upsetting.)

The first PSA is an experiment from the Victoria Transport Accident Commission that demonstrates the difference that slowing down by only 5 km an hour can make on an impact … that translates to just over 3 miles per hour. How much of a difference could such a small speed reduction possibly make? See for yourself.

The second PSA is a dramatic one from the New Zealand Transport Agency, who says: “No one should pay for a mistake with their life. When we drive, we share the road with others, so the speed we choose to travel at needs to leave room for any potential error.”

“Just Slow Down” is more of a mini-documentary than an ad. It’s from the Winnipeg Police Service. Two young guys tell their experience of surviving a speed-related crash that killed two of their friends. Terribly sad because it is true.

Northern Ireland has a very strong spot that has been under a great deal of protest and controversy. The controversy has caused the spot to go viral on the web. We’ve chosen not to embed it here, but you can read about why it’s creating such a strong reaction and see the spot here: People Are Pretty Angry About This Out-of-Control Safe-Driving Ad From Northern Ireland Too real, or not real enough?

Driving in rain can be tricky: How to avoid hydroplaning


Storm Driving

When there’s snow or ice on the road, drivers are cautious, but rain is such a frequent occurrence that drivers are sometimes over-confident. That’s a mistake that could be costly or even deadly. According to the Federal Highway Administration:

“Most weather-related crashes occur on wet pavement and during rainfall. Each year, 75 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on wet pavement and 47 percent happen during rainfall. Nearly 5,700 people are killed and more than 544,700 people are injured in crashes on wet pavement annually. Every year, over 3,400 people are killed and over 357,300 people are injured in crashes during rainfall.”

Edmunds offers a good refresher on best practice Tips and Techniques for Driving in Rain. But one condition that you should know about and prevent is hydroplaning or aquaplaning. According to SafeMotorist.com:

The term hydroplaning is commonly used to refer to the skidding or sliding of a cars tires across a wet surface. Hydroplaning occurs when a tire encounters more water than it can scatter. Water pressure in the front of the wheel pushes water under the tire, and the tire is then separated from the road surface by a thin film of water and loses traction. The result is loss of steering, braking and power control.

Rubber tires have tread (grooves) that are designed to channel water from beneath the tire. This creates higher friction with the road surface and can help prevent or minimize instances of hydroplaning.

Learn more at Hydroplaning Basics: Why it Occurs and How You Can Avoid it

This video from Defensive Driving offers a great overview of hydroplaning, how to avoid it and what to do if it happens.