CADILLAC — Your parents may have insisted that you buckle up in the backseat, but the law does not. At least, not in Michigan for passengers 16 and older; older teens and adults can be in the backseat, unbuckled, without breaking the law.
That’s a law the Governors Highway Safety Association says should change. The organization represents “state and territorial highway safety offices that implement federal grant programs to address behavioral highway safety issues,‘ and tracks seat belt laws.
Nationwide, 803 unbelted rear-seat passengers were killed in 2018; the GHSA says about half could have survived if they’d been restrained.
Michigan is one of 20 states without a law requiring all passengers be belted. The GHSA says 19 states and the District of Columbia have “primary‘ belting laws which mean law enforcement can pull you over and issue a ticket for an unbelted passenger in the second row. Eleven states have a weaker belting law, where people can be ticketed for unbelted second-row passengers, but only if the officer pulled the vehicle over for another reason first.
Front-row passengers have to be belted.
“If you’re in the front seat, regardless of your age, you have to buckle,‘ said Trooper Andrea Tillman, who works at the Michigan State Police Cadillac Post.
While MSP can’t ticket you for unbelted second-row passengers, they can and do encourage all passengers to buckle up.
“That’s the safest way to ride,‘ Tillman said. “The seatbelt is there for a reason.‘
Tillman pointed out that when cars receive their safety testing, the rear seatbelts are buckled.
“That’s what we believe is safest,‘ said Tillman, who recently underwent training to install car seats (MSP posts offer car-seat installation so parents can be confident that their baby’s car seat has been properly installed to protect infants in car crashes).
It’s not just passengers in the back row that should be belted—your stuff should tied down as well.
In an accident, loose equipment can become a projectile, hitting passengers, drivers or smashing through windows. Even law enforcement officers have to pay attention to that.
“We carry a lot of gear — and especially our tactical vests that we carry, I mean those, are probably like an extra 25 to 30 pounds — and I make sure I buckle that whenever I put that in my car,‘ Tillman explained.
Tillman stressed the importance of children wearing seatbelts and using booster seats.
“Lap and shoulder belts are best,‘ Tillman said, explaining that the shoulder belt is an important reason why kids should use booster seats.
“They want the shoulder belt over the shoulder,‘ Tillman said. “They don’t want it too close to the neck.‘