Bolinsky and government officials raise awareness of new seat belt law

NEWINGTON – All rear-seat vehicle passengers will now be a little bit safer when traveling in Connecticut thanks to the advocacy and persistence of a Newtown lawmaker and several key supporters.

On September 27, Newtown State Representative Mitch Bolinsky (R-106), along with Governor Ned Lamont, staff from the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) Road Safety Office, Jennifer Homendy, newly appointed chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, and AAA representatives gathered at CTDOT headquarters to mark the occasion.

Starting Friday, October 1, a new Connecticut law will require all passengers, including those in the back seats, to buckle up. Legislation enacting the new law was passed by the Connecticut House and Senate in June and was signed by the governor in July, marking the end of a long journey Bolinsky began when he first proposed security measure years ago.

Previous Connecticut rear seat occupant protection regulations only required rear passengers under the age of 16 to buckle up, although proper restraint saves lives at any age. The revised law is broadened to include all passengers.

The new law is subject to secondary enforcement, which means drivers cannot be stopped just because there is an untethered adult in the back seat. However, law enforcement can fine the unbelted passenger if the driver is stopped for a primary offense, such as speeding. The fine is $ 50 if the driver is 18 or over and $ 75 if the driver is under 18.

Between 2017 and 2020, there were more than 12,589 rear seat occupant injuries in Connecticut. During that same period, there were 61 deaths according to state data.

Bolinsky spent several terms securing legislative support for this and other life-saving auto safety measures to ensure the final passage to the state legislature, and over the years many experts have testified in favor of this initiative. In 2017, Dr Neil Chaudhary of Newtown, CEO and road safety consultant for the Pressure Group, was Bolinsky’s guest and expert witness, providing research data on the impact of non-seatbelt passengers on the back seat of a motor vehicle.

Chaudhary was present at the press conference.

“I’ve been pursuing this for a decade,” said Bolinsky, who spends his time away from legislative duties teaching driver training. “It is a common sense thing.”

Bolinsky said the law is estimated to be “17 lives saved per year” if the state can achieve the same level of compliance for those in the back seat as it is for those in the front seat. Besides saving lives, it keeps families together, Bolinsky said.

“I have a basic need to continue to fend for myself and make small differences that will save lives,” Bolinsky said. “It’s an opportunity to do something without negatively impacting anyone, it really makes sense. “

Bolinsky said years of auto safety research have shown that in serious car crashes, occupants in the unattached rear seats experience what is called a “human collision,” in which they are thrown around. of the vehicle.

They become “human missiles”. Many are thrown into the driver or other passengers, causing serious injury or preventable death. Some are ejected, resulting in almost certain death. The National Highway Traffic Association says unbelted rear seat occupants are three times more likely to perish than those buckled in – and even buckled front seat passengers are 20% more likely to be fatally injured by seat passengers rear unbuckled and airborne.

“By updating our state’s motor vehicle laws to include rear seat belt use, as well as existing front seat belt requirements, Connecticut is making a statement on how we let’s value every life, its potential and all that it can be, ”Bolinsky said.

“Connecticut was one of the first states to pass mandatory seat belt law over 30 years ago; however, that only applied to drivers and front seat passengers, ”Lamont said at the ceremony. “I applaud and recognize the efforts of those lawmakers and security advocates who have been pushing for the passage of this bailout for over 20 years. With this new law, passengers and drivers in Connecticut will be safer. “

“Our goal is zero deaths. Passengers not strapped to the back seat can become projectiles in an accident, causing serious injury or death, ”said CTDOT commissioner Joseph Giulietti. “This new law will contribute to our continued efforts to reduce motor vehicle fatalities and serious injuries. With an increased number of adults in the back seats with ridesharing services, this new law is a lifesaver for all Connecticut residents on our roads. “

“This victory is due to the hard work of the Connecticut Department of Transportation, my colleagues at AAA, a bipartisan group of lawmakers and more than 100 Connecticut organizations across the state, from first responders to medical associations. “Alec Slatky, director of public service and government affairs for AAA Northeast said. “Riding without a seatbelt can lead to injuries that are as devastating as they are preventable. Everyone should wear their seat belt – every seat, every trip. “

“The more we can get people in a vehicle to wear seat belts, the more lives we will save, and that is why this law is so important,” Homendy said. “I know this was a multi-year effort by a grand coalition of dedicated security leaders in this wonderful state. I know it’s been a long journey but I’m so glad you didn’t give up because lives will be saved. All passengers in a vehicle must be protected. All passengers must wear their seat belts whenever they are in a vehicle.

“The message is simple. Seat belts save lives, ”said State Representative Cristin McCarthy Vahey (D-Fairfield). “I am proud that after many years of advocacy we have been able to demand the use of rear seat belts for all ages here in Connecticut. The adoption of this law is an important step in helping all those who travel by car to change their behavior and to wear their seat belts. “

“Seat belts save lives in all seating positions of a car,” said Dr Shea Gregg, chief of trauma at Bridgeport Hospital. “Today, public health, industry, lawmakers and the trauma care community are coming together to reduce the unnecessary tragedies associated with car crash victims with unrestrained back seats.”

“Connecticut’s seat belt laws are specifically designed to protect 16 and 17 year old drivers, who are statistically more likely to be involved in a collision,” said Col. Stavros Mellekas, police commander of State of Connecticut. “Our soldiers will work in law enforcement to educate the public about the value of using seat belts. The overall goal is to increase safety on all of Connecticut’s highways. It takes about three seconds to attach. Take the time to save your life or someone else’s.

“Rear passengers who use a seat belt are more likely to survive a crash and less likely to injure others in a crash; unattached adults become live projectiles and pose a mortal danger to all other passengers in the vehicle with them, ”said Kevin Borrup, executive director of the Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center. “This law is a significant strengthening of the Connecticut seat belt law and makes everyone safer.”

Journalist Jim Taylor can be reached at [email protected]

Newtown State Representative Mitch Bolinsky is pictured with Governor Ned Lamont in the background during a ceremony marking the launch of a new state law requiring all rear passengers of motor vehicles to wear the seat belt. Bolinsky and others had been pushing for this reform for several years, and it came into effect on October 1 (see separate coverage of new business laws coming into force on page B10).

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