Motorists and passengers in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania may have joined everyone in the rest of the country in thinking the back seat was the safest spot in a car, but with seatbelt technology advances, that may no longer be true.
Those advances include automatic detection that tightens seatbelts in a crash and loosens them when an occupant presses against the belt. While this ensures more safety for front-seat occupants, this technology has taken a back seat when it comes to, well, the back seat.
Back seat risks
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), passengers 55 and older in vehicles that have this tech in the front, but not the back, should stay up front.
A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that seatbelts in most rear seats lack these so-called load limiters, which means they can’t loosen up. So, in a frontal crash, the belt itself can cause chest, abdominal or spinal injuries.
Rear seat belts without this technology still meet federal safety standards but are considered to offer only a minimum level of protection.
For children age 3-13, the back seat is still the safest place to sit in a vehicle, however.
The New York Times stated “researchers say improvements are needed because the back is likely to be occupied more often, with people such as older adults who have given up driving or passengers using ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. The safety of the back seat could become a bigger focus with autonomous vehicles.”
The Insurance Institute hopes to have back seat crash tests by 2022 which would allow buyers a basis for comparison of new cars. While the Institute has no regulatory authority, automakers have a history of being sensitive to publicity from poor ratings.
Ford will soon offer belts with pre-tensioners and load limiters in the back seat as standard equipment on many models, said Desi Ujkashevic, Ford’s global director for its Automotive Safety Office.
“Safety continues to evolve,” she said.
Seeking legal representation after a crash
If you were hurt in a crash while sitting in the back seat of a car, several factors have caused your injury. This could include the negligent actions of the driver of another car, the driver of the car you were sitting in, or a car parts manufacturer. You'll need an experienced car accident attorney to investigate your matter and pinpoint who was responsible.
Don't wait! Contact the Recht Law Offices today to get started. We serve injured motorists in West Virginia, Ohio or Pennsylvania and offer free consultations.