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Despite Risks, California Seatbelt Use Low in Uber and Taxi's


Seatbelts save lives. That phrase is not a tagline from a government-sponsored ad - it is a fact. The fact is that seatbelt use can reduce the chances of fatality or serious injury to the front seat passenger of a car by 50%. Too often, we learn of a rollover where an occupant was ejected from the vehicle and died unnecessarily.

In California, seatbelt use became a strictly enforced, primary law in 1993. Since then, compliance rose steadily to its current level of 96%. That number is ten percentage points higher than the national average. With seatbelt use so prevalent by drivers and passengers in private motor vehicles, why is the usage in commercial transportation so low, especially in rideshare vehicles such as Uber or Lyft and in taxicabs?

The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics show that only 65% of passengers in taxi's and rideshares wear their seatbelts. The most apparent reason is that most public transit, such as buses and trains, lack restraint systems and riders are unaccustomed to buckling up. The tendency is to simply get onboard for a short ride and get out quickly.

California Seatbelt Law Exemption

In California, taxi passengers are exempt from wearing seatbelts under the vehicle code "vehicles for hire." Rideshare companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar are considered taxis under the law, which means that no requirement is in place for passengers to buckle up. Uber management does encourage their drivers to require seatbelt usage by passengers. They realize the safety risk involved and also the legal ramifications of serious injuries in case of a crash.

If a passenger in a rideshare vehicle is injured in an accident, the driver of either vehicle cannot argue that the passenger broke the California seatbelt law by failure to wear their seatbelt. However if the driver of the rideshare vehicle was clearly at fault, he may claim that he asked the passenger to buckle up and the passenger refused. The insurance company for the rideshare can argue that had the passenger buckled up as requested, the injuries would have been less severe or non-existent. They would be levering what is called "comparative negligence" in an effort to get a discount on the amount of the claim they must pay.


If a seatbelt is available, not wearing it is perceived as irresponsible behavior. If an accident should occur, the seatbelt may mean the difference between being a little shaken up, and a lifetime of debilitation or even death. It is not illegal in the State of California to ride without a seatbelt in a taxi or rideshare. However, the insurance company may use your refusal to wear one to reduce the amount of money that you receive. They may even retain the services of a biomechanical expert to refute your claim.

If You Are Injured

Vititoe Law Group is a personal injury law firm that has successfully represented injured parties and wrongful deaths as the result of all motor vehicle accidents, including public transportation. If you or someone you love was injured, call today at 818-851-1886 for a free consultation or fill out the easy contact form on this website. You may be entitled to a significant cash award.

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