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J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2016 Oct;81(4 Suppl 1):S36-43. doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000001178.

Rear-seat seatbelt laws and restraint use in rear-seated teen passengers traveling in passenger vehicles involved in a fatal collision on a US roadway.

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From the Departments of Epidemiology (J.C.P., H.J.G., C.L.) and Health Policy and Management (J.C.P.) and the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia, Mailman School of Public Health (J.C.P.), Columbia University, New York, New York.



There is widespread belief that after childhood rear-seated motor vehicle occupants do not need to wear-seat seatbelts to travel safely. This belief is reflected in the fact that, in many states, teen passengers can ride legally unbelted in the rear seat of a passenger vehicle.


The Fatality Analysis Reporting System for 2010-2011 was used to examine factors associated with teen use of rear-seat seatbelts (n = 3,655) and with injury outcomes of belted and unbelted rear-seated teen passengers traveling in a passenger vehicle on a US roadway. Multilevel models controlled for nonindependence of cases using SAS Glimmix. Odds ratio (OR) is reported with 95% confidence interval (CI).


Slightly more than half (50.8%) of rear-seated teens were restrained, but this declined linearly with age from 65.8% of 13- to 14-year-olds to 43.3% of 18- to 19-year-olds. Overall, 77.0% of rear-seat mortality occurred in unbelted teens. Passengers of belted drivers were more frequently belted (64.1% vs. 19.0%, χ = 586.2, p < 0.0001). Nearly one-fifth (18.5%) of rear-seated teens were ejected, with 95.8% of ejections in unrestrained teens. Presence of a rear-seat seatbelt law was associated with higher restraint use (55.9% vs. 40.0%, χ = 89.0, p < 0.0001). However, in adjusted multilevel, multivariable models, belt status varied by whether the seatbelt law was primary (OR, 1.60; 95% CI, 1.29-1.99) or secondary enforcement (OR, 1.33; 95% CI, 0.98-1.78).


Presence of a primary enforced rear-seat seatbelt law was associated with significantly higher belt use. Ejection was associated with higher mortality and being unrestrained. More than three quarters of rear-seated teens who died were unrestrained.


Epidemiologic study, level III.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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