New York senators moved to strengthen the state's seat belt laws Tuesday and approved a bill that requires backseat adult passengers to buckle up.
The legislation, passed by the state Senate and Assembly, now moves on to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Current law requires front seat adult passengers to be buckled, but the legislation would force adult backseat passengers to use a seat belt too — a move supporters say will save lives and cut down on the risk posed to buckled-in front seat riders.
"The simple fact is you're not any safer in the back seat. So we have to make that message loud and clear by passing this legislation," said state Sen. David Carlucci on the chamber floor Tuesday.
Carlucci, a Democrat whose district includes Rockland County, said New York in the 1980s became the first state in the nation to require people in the front seat to wear a seat belt. But since then, dozens of other states have enacted backseat belt laws, he said.
"Let's not be the last state," said Carlucci, a sponsor of the measure.
Supportive lawmakers also say people who do not wear their seat belts in the backseat put front seat passengers at risk.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that about half of the 37,133 people killed in vehicle crashes in 2017 were not wearing seat belts. According to the administration, an estimated 14,955 lives were saved by seat belts in that same year.
The backseat belt measure has long been stalled at the state Capitol. The measure has failed several times to pass both chambers.
State Sen. Jen Metzger, a Democrat whose district covers Sullivan County, recalled that a constituent who teaches driver safety brought the issue to her attention last year. The bill, she said, will save thousands of lives.
"It's shocking. It's actually really shocking to me," she said.