People using ride-hailing services, such as Uber and Lyft or taxis, say they are less likely to use seat belts compared to when they are in their own vehicles, according to the Pew Research Center.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says 90% of drivers and front-seat passengers used their seat belts in 2019, while belt usage fell to 76% for adults riding in rear seats.

So many excuses not to use seat belts

In 2018, 803 rear-seat passengers who were not wearing seat belts died in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S., and safety advocates say half of them would have survived if they were buckled up. A public opinion survey lists many reasons people give for not using belts:

  • 80%: Only taking short rides in an Uber, Lyft or taxi
  • 68%: Belts are uncomfortable and inconvenient
  • 52%: Forgot to buckle up
  • 38%: No laws exist mandating their use
  • 33%: It’s too crowded in the back seat
  • 24%: Because others are not belted

Belt usage is lowest for ride-hailing passengers

According to the NHTSA, rear-seat passengers are twice as likely to die in a crash if they are not wearing seat belts. However, a 2017 independent study of Uber, Lyft and taxi passengers found disturbing results illustrating the percentage of passengers who do buckle up:

  • 28% of taxi passengers in Las Vegas
  • 26% of taxi passengers in San Francisco
  • 18% of Uber and Lyft passengers in Las Vegas
  • 52% of Uber and Lyft passengers in San Francisco

Primary seat belt laws result in higher usage

Pew Center researchers say states have taken little action to require back seat passengers to use seat belts. Only 19 states and the District of Columbia have primary seat belt laws that allow an officer to stop a vehicle and issue tickets for anyone not using belts.

Eleven other states, including Massachusetts, have secondary laws, which means tickets can only be issued for seat belt violations when the driver is stopped for another reason. Research by the NHTSA shows seat belt usage is much higher in states where primary laws are enforced.