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Hartford Hospital joins statewide campaign urging rear seat belt use

PhotoAlto / Ale Ventura

Not everyone in back of vehicles is buckling up, despite a statewide rear seat belt law that went into effect in 2021. Hartford Hospital is now part of a statewide pilot campaign running through March that hopes to raise awareness about the dangers of not using seat belts when sitting in the back of cars.

Officials at Hartford Hospital said they have seen injuries from people in ride shares who just jump into the car for a few minutes and don't use the seat belt.

"They think, ‘I'm protected, I'm safer here in the backseat,’ when really, they're not,” said Dr. Alfred Croteau, a trauma surgeon at Hartford Hospital. “One of the things we've seen a couple of times recently is people being ejected through these very large, picturesque panoramic sunroofs.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 60% of back seat passengers killed in 2020 weren’t wearing a seat belt. Leading up to the state's rear seat belt law on Oct. 1, 2021, between 2017 and 2020, there were more than 12,589 injuries of rear seat occupants in Connecticut, and 61 fatalities.

Croteau said data shows the way seatbelts work in dispersing energy changes the injury pattern.

“So by no means am I going to say that people who wear seatbelts don't get injured, they absolutely do,” he said. “But the types of injuries that they suffer are often not as life threatening, and much more predictable than victims ejected from the car [who] could be crushed or rolled over or struck by another vehicle.”

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.

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