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[Study] Examining Seatbelt Use Among Rideshare Passengers in the United States

Posted on June 21, 2019 in In the News

On Saturday, April 20, 2019, 47-year-old Ray Warren Ilar was riding in the backseat of an Uber vehicle in Portland, Oregon when the intoxicated driver of a stolen pickup truck crashed head-on into the Uber vehicle at over 100mph. The Uber driver was injured and survived – but Ilar was ejected through the windshield and died. Ilar was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the incident.

Despite numerous federal and state laws enforcing seatbelt use in motor vehicles, people seem to put less urgency on the use of safety restraints if they are a passenger in rideshare vehicles. We wanted to see just how many users of rideshare services wear seatbelts, and how often they do so under specific circumstances, so we surveyed nearly 1500 people throughout the nation to gather their experiences.

Seatbelt Habits in a Rideshare vs. Your Own Vehicle

 

Rideshare Seatbelt Usage

 

When asked about seatbelt use in one’s own vehicle compared to seatbelt use in an Uber or Lyft vehicle, people reported varying behaviors.

We found that people are much less likely to wear a seatbelt while riding in an Uber or Lyft than they are in their own car.

Although 90% of people reported always wearing a seatbelt in their own vehicle, only 70 percent said the same about use in a rideshare vehicle.

Alarmingly, 11% stated they never wear a seatbelt in a rideshare vehicle – nearly four times more than reported for their own vehicle.

It’s important to note that most passengers have a tendency to ride in the backseat of rideshare vehicles rather than the front seat (something that we recommend you always do if you are riding alone).

Taking that into consideration, these data actually closely align with nationally reported numbers. According to information collected in 2017 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and their National Occupant Protection Use Surveys (NOPUS), 89.7% of those sitting in the front seats used their seatbelts regularly – while just 75.4% of those sitting in the rear seats used their restraints.

Seatbelt Use in Rideshares by Age

 

Rideshare Seatbelt Use by Age

 

When categorized by age, passengers aged 25-34 reported the highest percentage of people who always use their seatbelt in a rideshare vehicle, at 75.36%, closely followed by 45-54 year olds at 73.63%.

Interestingly, both 35-44 year olds and 65+ year olds occupy the lower end, with 66.35% and 64.85%, respectively. However, the remaining distribution in each demographic is striking – the remaining percentage of 35-44 year old passengers say they sometimes or usually use a seatbelt, while among senior citizens 65 and older, the majority of the rest of them say they never wear a seatbelt.

Cross-referencing the 2017 NOPUS data yields equally interesting results: in the front seat, the percentage for seatbelt use across age demographics never reaches lower than 87.0% – the percentage of 16-24 year olds wearing seatbelts in a vehicle. In fact, seatbelt use is the highest in those aged 70 and older, at 90.7%.

However, the rear seat belt use data presented by the NOPUS study more closely aligns with our survey findings. Rear seat belt usage among most demographics hovers in the 70 percent range, with only passengers aged 8-15 having an 83% usage rate.

Rear passengers aged 25-69 had the lowest percentage of use, with just 70.0% reporting seatbelt usage in the back seat.

Although this may explain the rates for those who reported “always” using seat belts, this does not necessarily justify the disproportionally large amount of passengers 65 and older who reportedly never wear a seatbelt in a rideshare – a point of contention they may warrant further investigation.

Seatbelt Habits Among Rideshare Passengers by Gender

When categorized by gender, the distribution of responses is fairly even across both male and female rideshare passengers. The major contrast lies in those who rarely use seatbelts in rideshare vehicles, where men have double the percentage compared to women.

This is atypical of nationally-gathered results, which state that females have a higher seatbelt usage rate than males – in both front and rear seats.

Percentagewise, this data is more in line with rear seat data than front seat data, where the usage rates for both men and women are 73.6% and 77.2%, respectively – compared to 88.0% and 91.8%, respectively, in front seat seatbelt use.

Regional Differences in Rideshare Seatbelt Use

 

Regional Differences in Seatbelt Usage

 

When categorized by region, the Pacific region ranks highest in seatbelt safety, with 80% of passengers reporting they always use their seatbelts in an Uber or Lyft, and 7% reporting that they never wear seatbelts – the highest and the lowest percentages in their respective categories.

The Pacific region was the only one to crack 80% in the “always” category, with 6 of the 9 regions reporting in the 60 percent area for always wearing seatbelts. Additionally, 5 of these had double-digit percentages of passengers who never wore a seatbelt in an Uber or Lyft – including a whopping 23% of passengers in the East South Central region reportedly never wearing seatbelts.

This may be primarily due to the variation of seatbelt laws from state to state. Seatbelt laws are categorized into primary and secondary enforcement laws.

  • Primary laws allow officers to issue tickets to drivers and/or passengers for not wearing a seatbelt.
  • Secondary laws only allow officers to issue a ticket when there is another citable traffic violation that has occurred.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 34 states and Washington, D.C. have primary seat belt laws for just front seat occupants – of those, only 20 and D.C. have primary laws for both the front and the rear seats. 10 states only have secondary enforcement laws for rear seatbelt use – and 20 states don’t have any laws enforcing rear seatbelt use.

All of the states in the Pacific Region (California, Oregon, and Washington) have strict primary enforcement laws for seatbelt use in both the front and rear seats – which may explain why use in that region is significantly higher compared to the other regions, which contain states with both primary and secondary enforcement seatbelt laws.

Interestingly, New Hampshire is the only state in the country that has no seatbelt use laws whatsoever for passengers 18 and older. This may explain the relatively high percentage of “never” passengers in the New England region.

Alcohol Use: By Frequency of Use Based on Intoxication

In doing our survey, we were also curious about how alcohol consumption played a part in seatbelt use in rideshare vehicles. So, we asked two questions to group these variables more effectively, with both offering the same range of choices (Always, Usually, Sometimes, Rarely, Never):

  1. How often are you intoxicated when you ride in a rideshare vehicle?
  2. How often do you wear a seatbelt in an Uber or Lyft?

The following chart displays the results of our survey. The most striking distribution of seatbelt use seems to come from those who are always intoxicated when they hail an Uber or Lyft – in other words, those who only use rideshare services when they are intoxicated.

Rideshare Seatbelt Use: User Types Men Vs Women

It could be argued that women are more willing to trust a product/service than men after repeated use, but that is an assumption that could serve as the basis for additional investigations.

Liability for Seatbelt Use May or May Not Fall on the Uber Driver

Ultimately, we felt this survey was important because it highlights the necessity for personal responsibility on the part of the passenger regarding seatbelt use. In some states, the seatbelt law dictates that the passenger is liable for proper seatbelt use – while in other states, the driver is legally required to ensure that their passengers are all buckled in before a embarking on a ride.

These inconsistent guidelines across all states are crucial to understand in accident situations, especially if you are seeking compensation for any damages incurred. In the case of Ray Ilar, ultimately the Uber driver had no financial liability for Ilar’s death, as Oregon state law dictates that liability falls on the passenger to ensure they are properly restrained in the vehicle.

Survey Data and Methodology

We collected responses from 1499 Google users to find out more about their rideshare and seatbelt usage habits. 43 percent of respondents were male, 37.5 percent were female and 19.5 declined to share their gender. The age of respondents ranged from 18 – 72.

While we stand by the results of our study, survey data does come with certain limitations and disadvantages including:

  • Memory lapses
  • Misinterpretation of questions and answers
  • Respondents not feeling comfortable providing accurate, honest answers.
  • Among others.

We encourage the use of any data findings or visual elements. If you decide to share or cover this story, please include a link back to this page so that readers may view the entirety of our survey findings.

Rideshare Seatbelt Use by Frequency of Intoxication

Within this group, less than half reported that they always use a seatbelt, and a quarter reported they never use one. By contrast, the next lowest percentage of those who say they would always wear a seatbelt is those who are sometimes intoxicated, at 67%. And no other groupings of intoxication tendencies went into double-digit percentages for never wearing a seatbelt.

Interestingly, 3 of the 5 intoxication use categories have “always wear a seatbelt” percentages higher than the overall findings for general seatbelt use in an Uber or Lyft. Of those who are never intoxicated when they use a rideshare service (i.e., those are always sober when in an Uber or Lyft), 75% reported they always use a seatbelt – 5% higher than our initial results for general seatbelt use in rideshare vehicles.

What’s more, frequently intoxicated women (those who use reported to always or usually be intoxicated when using rideshares) were much more likely to report that they never wear a seatbelt than were men – with 9% in women compared to only 2% in men.

Alcohol Use: Among Regularly Intoxicated Passengers by Region

When comparing regularly intoxicated passengers from a regional perspective, the results reveal interesting differences in seatbelt use behavior. (For this section, we define regularly intoxicated rideshare users by those who responded that they are always or usually intoxicated when they use Uber or Lyft).

 

Intoxicated Rideshare Seatbelt Use by US Region

 

Generally, the percentage of those who always use seatbelts in an Uber or Lyft decreases across the board when intoxication is a factor, except for two regions: Mid Atlantic and Mountain. 67% of intoxicated passengers in the Mid Atlantic region (which encapsulates New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey) reported always using their seatbelt – 3 percent higher than sober passengers.

Intoxicated passengers in the Mountain region seem to be significantly more safety-conscious than sober passengers – an incredible 88% of them stated they always use a seatbelt in a rideshare, 11 percent more than their sober counterparts.

The most startling results come from the East South Central region: just about half of intoxicated passengers report always using seatbelts, while nearly a third report that they never use seatbelts. Composed of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, this region already reported the highest number of general passengers who never use a seatbelt – so seeing an increase in that when intoxication plays a factor may be cause for concern.

Seatbelt Habits Based on Frequency of Rideshare Usage

According to our survey, frequency of rideshare use plays a significant factor in seatbelt habits.

The number of passengers who always wear a seatbelt in an Uber or Lyft generally goes down as the frequency of rideshare use goes up. Of those who have use Uber or Lyft less than once a month, 80% of them report that they always use a seatbelt. Contrast that with those who utilize rideshare services ten or more times monthly – just 58% report always using a seatbelt.

Rideshare Seatbelt Use: User Types

Much of this may be due to an inherent tendency to feel more comfortable with a service or product the more frequently it is used, leading to greater peace of mind or trust – which can be a catalyst for routine lapses in standard safety procedures.

Seatbelt Habits Based on Frequency of Rideshare Usage – By Gender

When these data are grouped by gender, the general trend remains largely the same. However, for those who are heavy rideshare users, women are overwhelmingly less likely to wear a seatbelt than men. Only 42% reported that they would always use a seatbelt, compared to 60% in men.

Rideshare Seatbelt Use: User Types Men Vs Women

It could be argued that women are more willing to trust a product/service than men after repeated use, but that is an assumption that could serve as the basis for additional investigations.

Liability for Seatbelt Use May or May Not Fall on the Uber Driver

Ultimately, we felt this survey was important because it highlights the necessity for personal responsibility on the part of the passenger regarding seatbelt use. In some states, the seatbelt law dictates that the passenger is liable for proper seatbelt use – while in other states, the driver is legally required to ensure that their passengers are all buckled in before a embarking on a ride.

These inconsistent guidelines across all states are crucial to understand in accident situations, especially if you are seeking compensation for any damages incurred. In the case of Ray Ilar, ultimately the Uber driver had no financial liability for Ilar’s death, as Oregon state law dictates that liability falls on the passenger to ensure they are properly restrained in the vehicle.

Survey Data and Methodology

We collected responses from 1499 Google users to find out more about their rideshare and seatbelt usage habits. 43 percent of respondents were male, 37.5 percent were female and 19.5 declined to share their gender. The age of respondents ranged from 18 – 72.

While we stand by the results of our study, survey data does come with certain limitations and disadvantages including:

  • Memory lapses
  • Misinterpretation of questions and answers
  • Respondents not feeling comfortable providing accurate, honest answers.
  • Among others.

We encourage the use of any data findings or visual elements. If you decide to share or cover this story, please include a link back to this page so that readers may view the entirety of our survey findings.