Safety researchers are saying that the back seat of a vehicle is no longer the safest place in a crash. According to a report in The New York Times, there was a time when the rear seat was considered the safest place to be if you are ever involved in a car accident. But, now, experts say, that’s no longer the case because advances in seatbelt technology do a better job of safeguarding front-seat occupants than those sitting in rear seats.
Risk of Injuries and Fatalities
The better seatbelts are those that tighten up when sensors detect an imminent crash. But, they also can loosen a bit if the occupant is pressing against the belt so hard that the belt itself might cause an injury. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that if superior technology isn’t available in the back seat, passengers over 55 years of age should sit in the front seat of newer vehicles that are equipped with these more sophisticated seatbelts.
Researchers say seatbelts in most rear seats don’t have load limiters, which means they lack the ability to loosen up during a crash. So, in a frontal crash, the belt itself could cause chest, abdominal or spinal injuries, according o a new study released by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Researchers investigated frontal crashes that killed or seriously injured 117 rear-seat occupants between 6 and 92 years old.
They said there was evidence of significant seatbelt forces on the chest of occupants of all ages. However, the rear seatbelts that don’t have the load limiters or pre-tensioners that tighten during a crash, do meet federal safety standards – the bare minimum level of protection.
Making Vehicles Safer
Researchers are calling for improvements and changes to these minimal standards particularly because the rear seats are likely to be occupied by more vulnerable age groups such as the elderly. With rideshare services catching on, passengers using these services would also be seated in the back. Researchers however say children under 13 should still sit in the back because that is still the safest place for them overall. They also say that everyone should still wear seatbelts, whether they are sitting in the front or back. The protection offered by a seatbelt is far greater than the potential for injuries.
These findings merely make a case for automakers to improve safety in all vehicles. Safety features should never be considered a luxury. The technology, we know, is available and doesn’t cost much. Automakers should stop putting profits over public safety and ensure that all vehicles come equipped with features that will keep the traveling public safe in the event of a car accident.