If you think you are safer riding in the back seat of a car than in the front seat, you may want to think again. While it may seem like the rear of the car is safer than the front because child safety seats are required to be secured in the back, a recent study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia may cause you to reconsider.
Over the last two decades, auto manufacturers have focused on increasing safety in the front seat. While this makes perfect sense since there will always be an occupant of the front seat—namely the driver—the safety of the back seat is lagging behind, leaving us to worry about the safety of the occupants in the rear. According to the study, passengers in the back seat of cars have a 46 percent greater chance of being killed in an auto accident than someone in the front seat, even when wearing a seatbelt.
“It’s not because the rear seat has gotten less safe, but rather the front seat has gotten safer,” said Jessica Jermakian, IIHS senior research scientist and co-author of the study.
While this information may make us want to move our children to the front seat, safety experts still believe the rear seat of the vehicle is safer for children under nine due to the added protection of child safety seats. In addition, Consumer Reports recommends all children 13 and younger ride in the back seat of vehicles. However, the same isn’t true for occupants age 55 and older. Research shows that people of this age need to be seated in the front rather than the back of vehicles, as data reveals that this age group was at an increased risk for suffering serious and fatal injuries when seated in the back seat.
The Need to Improve Rear-Seat Safety
Some of the safety features that have improved safety for front-seat passengers include load limiters, seatbelt pretensioners, and airbags. These features reduce chest injuries and help absorb the shock in an impact. However, there are some manufacturers who have added safety features such as these to the back seat.
Volvo added load limiters and seatbelt pretensioners to the rear seatbelts in all of its vehicles, and Ford has a Rear Inflatable Belt that is an added option on its Explorer, Edge, F-150, Flex and Fusion as well as the Lincoln MKZ and MKT. Mercedes-Benz also has similar technology that is standard on some of its cars and optional on other vehicles. While this is a step in the right direction, many automakers haven’t taken steps to increase the safety in the rear of the vehicles.
While most newer vehicles have rear-seat side airbags, safety experts are hoping auto makers will start adding seatbelt pretensioners and load limiters to rear safety belts, as well as rear-seat reminder chimes to notify drivers when passengers in the back seat fail to use their seatbelts. The National Highway Traffic Administration is also studying airbags that would deploy from the roof or from the back of the front seat to help protect occupants in the rear.
If you or a loved one has been injured in the front or back seat of a car, you may have a legal claim for your damages. To find out if your claim rests with the manufacturer or a negligent driver, contact our law firm today and receive a free consultation. Simply click on the live chat button on the left of your screen or reach us at (301) 942-9118.