There is a long-standing assumption that passengers are safer in the back seat, however, that is not true. According to a study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), backseat passengers may be actually more prone to serious injuries than those in the front. Backseat passengers are 46 percent more likely to suffer fatalities in car accidents than drivers or front seat passengers. Many of those fatalities could have been prevented if the backseat passengers wore a seat belt at the time of the car accident.
What Makes the Back Seat so Dangerous?
One of the main reasons why the back seat can be a dangerous place for passengers is that so many people fail to use their seat belt because they do not think it is as important as wearing it while riding in the front seat. Whether they are riding in the car with a friend or family member, people often do not wear a seat belt, particularly if they are only traveling a short distance. In addition, seat belt laws require drivers and front seat passengers to wear a seat belt, but those laws do not apply to backseat passengers.
When it comes to advanced safety technology, today’s vehicles may be safer than ever, but the backseat technology has not advanced at the same rate. For example, structural improvements have been made to the front seat, side airbags have been installed, and electronic stability controls are standard in many newer vehicles. These protections are not available to backseat passengers, which is alarming, particularly for parents of young children who have been told that the back seat is the safest place for their children.
While some vehicles are equipped with rear seat belts that automatically tighten if the vehicle’s accident prevention technology detects an imminent collision, this technology is not widely available. In addition, rear seat belts do not always come with load limiters that allow the seats to loosen, which can prevent seat belt-inflicted injuries, including chest, abdominal, and spinal cord injuries. Even though seat belts with no load limiters can cause such serious injuries, they meet current federal safety standards.
What Are the Most Common Injuries That Affect Backseat Passengers?
According to the IIHS, the most common injuries suffered by backseat passengers include injuries to the chest or head. The chest injuries included bruised or fractured ribs, as well as potentially life-threatening punctures of the ribs to the lungs or heart. Head injuries are caused by the impact from the head hitting the windows or seats. Depending on the force of the impact, backseat passengers could suffer brain injuries, memory loss, and other cognitive issues from brain damage.
What Backseat Safety Improvements Should Be Made?
Car manufacturers continue to make improvements to safety technology, which now includes developing a range of safety features that will make the back seat safer for those passengers. The following are examples of improvements to backseat safety features that are being developed:
- Install force limiters: This will reduce the severity of serious, potentially fatal chest injuries.
- Virtual crash tests: Crash test ratings are only available for front seat safety, but researchers are developing improved safety technology using computerized models of the human body. For example, researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia use these models to determine whether a booster seat is effective at protecting the child. In addition, some researchers are conducting simulations of vehicle occupants who are above or below the average height, which are not currently represented by crash-test dummies.
- Backseat airbags: There are very few vehicles that are equipped with backseat airbags, despite the fact that airbags save lives and can prevent severe injuries that can occur when a motorist’s head strikes the windshield or dashboard. Only a few luxury vehicles offer inflatable rear seat belts, which can help prevent serious chest injuries. Some are equipped with airbags that deploy from the back of the front seat, which protect the backseat passenger’s head, neck, and shoulders. Car manufacturers will need to conduct additional testing to determine whether backseat airbags will be safe and effective at protecting children who are secured in their car seats.
- Personalized safety: There are a number of safety advances that car manufacturers are developing that will make the back seat much safer for a wider range of vehicle occupants. For example, seat belt manufacturers are currently developing a technology that adjusts the position of the shoulder belt to fit different sizes and shapes of passengers to ensure a safe and secure fit.
How Can I Stay Safe in the Backseat?
It takes time to make improvements to vehicles, including those that affect seat belt safety. Until car manufacturers have developed more efficient restraints and installed them in their vehicles, there are steps you can take to stay as safe as possible when riding in the back seat, including the following:
- Always wear a seat belt when riding in the back seat, whether you are travelling two miles or 200 miles. It is always safer to wear a seat belt.
- There should only be the same number of passengers as there are seat belts in the back seat.
- Do not try to share seat belts. If you try to use the seat belt to secure more than one person, it may not work properly.
- Choose the appropriate car seat. Parents should make sure that they install the right car seat based on the child’s age, height, and weight. If they are unsure about which car seat to get, the child’s pediatrician can recommend a safe option.
- Pick the safest spot for the car seat. The middle seat is the safest if the vehicle is in a side impact car accident. However, the outer seats are generally safer if the seat is secured properly.
- Some older vehicles have separate belts for the side and the lap. If your car has this type of seat belt, make sure that the backseat passengers use both belts properly.
- Make sure that the backseat passengers stay calm. Yelling, jumping, or any loud, rambunctious behavior can be distracting to the driver and increase the risk of a serious accident.
- Do not lay down when riding in the back seat. This prevents the seat belt from working properly. If you are involved in a car accident, you are at an increased risk of being ejected from the vehicle.
- Store loose objects. There are a number of objects that you may place on the console between the two front seats, including your keys, your phone, a water bottle, or other loose objects that you did not put in the glove compartment. If the vehicle comes to a sudden stop or is involved in a high-speed accident, any unsecured object can become dangerous if it hits the drivers or any other passengers in the vehicle, including backseat passengers. Keep all loose items stored in the glove compartment.
Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest and most effective things you can do to prevent severe injuries if you are involved in a car accident. While improvements are being made to backseat safety, not wearing a seat belt will only increase the risk of serious injuries.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Represent Backseat Passengers Injured in Accidents
If you have been injured in a car accident while riding in the back seat, you are urged to contact one of our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 757-LAW-0000 or contact us online. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore, Virginia. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.