New study says NY law not requiring seat belt for all passengers in rear seat putting teens at risk

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) —  Buckle up! According to a new study from AAA New York State, your life depends on it in both the front seats and rear seats.

“Teenagers between 16 and 18 years of age less than 40% of them are buckling up in the back seat because it’s not required,” said Elizabeth Carey, AAA Western and Central NY Public and Government Affairs Manager.

As long as you are over the age 16, it’s not illegal to not wear a seat belt in the back seat in New York state. But in the event of a collision, that choice could be a dangerous one.

“In the rear seat it’s just and equally as important to wear a seat belt all the time and the reason is we like to call the term back seat bullet. If you have your front seat driver passenger buckled in they’re fully safe but if you have the people in the back seat unbuckled they’re going to shoot forward,” said New York State Police Trooper James O’Callaghan

A study by AAA found between 1995 to 2014, 886 unbelted rear seat occupants age 16 + were killed, including one in every county in New York. Teens were especially at risk: less than 40% of rear seat occupants ages 16-18 wore seat belts.

“I think everybody should wear their seat belt I don’t think there should be an age if you get into a car accident you’re not safe without a seat belt on it doesn’t matter what seat your sitting in,” said Jeremy Merrick of Buffalo.

Research shows rear seat occupants who don’t buckle up are three times more likely to be killed.

“We’ve seen fatalities and we’ve seen major injuries and accidents where this has actually become the case where the back seat passenger has actually caused injury or fatality to the front seat person who was bucked in properly,” said Trooper James O’Callaghan. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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