IIHS: In newer vehicles, back seats are less safe than the front

Rear car seats are traditionally safer than front seats, but in the face of recent car safety improvements, rear-seat safety is now lagging. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been making efforts to raise awareness of this fact, developing a series of crash tests to illustrate its safety concerns. Ohio residents should know that improving rear-seat safety comes with several challenges.

Rear seats can seat children and adults and even be the area where pets and cargo are placed. This presents difficulties from the point of view of automotive interior design, as compared to the front seats, which can be designed with the knowledge that they will carry at least one person: the driver.

In addition, seat-back strength requirements for rear seats have not been updated in over 50 years. Weak backs often cause seats to collapse in rear-end collisions. Worst of all, though, is that many rear-seat passengers fail to wear seatbelts. A National Highway Transportation Safety Administration study found that only three-quarters wear them, compared to 90% of front-seat occupants.

The issue is not that rear-seat safety is being neglected. It is that new devices like force limiters and crash tensioners, which can benefit rear-seat occupants, have only been designed for the front seat. Airbags, another potential life-saver, are currently optional for the sides.

In car accidents, the police reports note whether all those involved were wearing seatbelts or not. Seatbelt neglect can lessen one’s chances of filing a personal injury claim as well as lessen the amount one receives in damages. Rear-seat occupants who are injured through another’s negligence might want to hire a lawyer before they consider filing a claim. Legal representation may prove beneficial during the negotiation or litigation phase.