Front-seat drivers and passengers in cars can improve their safety not only by fastening their own seat belts but also by making sure that rear-seat passengers have fastened theirs, according to a new study by Japanese researchers (Lancet. 2002;359:43-44).
Researchers at the University of Tokyo examined data for car-to-car crashes from 1995 to 1999 in which there were at least two rear-seat passengers. Their goal: to determine the risk of death or severe injury during a car crash of drivers and front-seat passengers riding with belted and unbelted back-seat passengers. They found that overall, belted front-seat occupants traveling with rear-seat passengers who weren't wearing seat belts had a two- to three-fold increased risk of injury and a nearly five-fold increased risk of death compared with those whose back-seat traveling companions buckled up.
Stephenson J. Back-seat Seat Belts. JAMA. 2002;287(6):706. doi:10.1001/jama.287.6.706-JWM20002-2-1