HARTFORD — Connecticut lawmakers moved closer Monday toward expanding the state’s 33-year-old seat belt law to include everyone riding in a vehicle.
The General Assembly’s Public Health Committee voted unanimously Monday in favor of a bill that would require all back-seat passengers to buckle up, instead of mandating just front-seat passengers and children under age 16 years old — no matter where they’re sitting — to wear restraints.
The state’s Department of Public Health is advocating for the legislation, a policy recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state agency notes that more than 100 of the average 270 motor vehicle crash-related deaths that occur in Connecticut each year could be saved if everyone in the vehicle wore a seat belt.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the U.S. for people ages 1 to 54, and more than half of those killed in crashes were not wearing seat belts at the time, according to the Department of Public Health.
“Everyone in every position of the car should wear their seat belt. This is just one small way that residents of Connecticut can be protected from serious injury and death in the event of a motor vehicle crash,” Public Health Commissioner Raul Pino recently told lawmakers.
Fran Mayko, testifying on behalf of Connecticut’s two AAA automobile clubs, said 29 states and Washington, D.C., currently require back-seat passengers to wear seat belts. Connecticut was one of the first states in the nation to enact a seat belt requirement in 1985. Mayko noted that policymakers three decades ago thought the back seat was a safe place for unrestrained passengers, but that thinking has changed over the years.
The bill now awaits action in the House of Representatives.