Illinois House Passes Bill Requiring Back-Seat Passengers To Use Seat Belts

The Illinois House of Representatives passed legislation that would now require back-seat passengers to start wearing seat belts.

The bill passed by a 61-55 margin and now will go to the Senate. If it becomes law, Illinois would join eleven other states that require back-seat seat-belts to be used.

“We’ve had people in our area killed and maimed who hadn’t had a seat belt on in the back seat,” said Rep. Mark Beaubien, R-Barrington Hills, the bill’s chief House sponsor. “Totally unnecessary.”

According to today’s Lake County News-Sun story titled “House passes bill requiring back-seat passengers to use seat belts” in 2009, on a nationwide basis, 1,095 back-seat passengers not wearing seat belts died, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Back-seat passengers 19 and under are now required under Illinois state law to wear seat belts, but ever since Illinois passed its first seat-belt law in 1985 adults have been exempted.

Since 1985, seat-belt usage has steadily risen in Illinois, with nearly 93 percent of front-seat occupants wearing their seat belts as of last June, according to an IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) survey.

And after Illinois gave police the explicit authority to pull over motorists strictly for not wearing seat belts, traffic fatalities have declined. Between 2005 and 2009, traffic deaths dropped by 33 percent, according to IDOT.

The legislation exempts various passenger types, such as taxi passengers, school-bus occupants, those riding in the back of an ambulance, or those with physical infirmities that would make it difficult to wear a seat belt.

Critics say the bill micromanages citizens about a personal decision; as well, these critics say they have not seen conclusive evidence that requiring back-seat seat-belt compliance will be a lifesaver.

The IDOT 2009 Crash Facts and Statistics Report (pdf) contained the following concerning auto accidents:

“In 2009, the state of Illinois became a safer place to travel in an automobile as a result of our successful efforts to improve traffic safety. Illinois finished the year with 911 fatalities – the lowest number of people killed in auto crashes since 1921 – and fewer than 89,100 injuries. Motorists wearing safety belts in 2009 reached an all-time high, with a 91.7 percent usage rate, and then increased even more to a record-breaking 92.6 percent in subsequent months.”