Backseat Passenger Injuries

May 2, 2019
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Backseat Passengers Are In Danger!

Your passengers are not as safe in the back seat of your car as you thought. According to a new study of frontal collisions performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (I.I.H.S.), passengers riding in the beat seat of a vehicle in the case of an accident are at an elevated risk of serious injuries and fatalities even when wearing their seatbelts. The study analyzed 117 crashes involving rear seat occupants who were seriously injured or killed across two national databases and found most injuries to be connected with a lack of sufficient restraints.

While car manufacturers have been focusing on advanced safety features protecting drivers and front seat passengers on the road, the back seat occupants have been left behind. These findings are particularly disheartening for parents who have long been told that the back seat was the safest place in the car for their children, as well as passengers who often use ride-sharing options which constantly places them in the rear seat and at risk.

Safety experts believe further research into the manufacturing of more complex restraints for back seat passengers is an essential next step to decreasing the deadly risk these occupants face. In the meantime, spreading awareness on the dangers of the back seat and what not to do as a back seat passenger can help prevent unnecessary harm and the possibility of future injuries.

What’s Causing Backseat Injuries

When looking at the outcomes for rear seat passengers in accidents from 2014, the I.I.H.S. study found that failing to buckle up was a significant factor leading to injuries and fatalities. Until now, many motorists and passengers held the misconception that sitting in the back of a car is not as dangerous as sitting near the front. The idea that the backseat was almost a ‘safe zone’ in the car has led to an increased number of passengers engaging in risky behaviors, such as not wearing a seat belt or lying down flat to sleep while the car is in motion and sometimes at high speeds. Some individuals use the back seat of a car to pile in as many passengers that will fit, well exceeding the number of seatbelts available and often leading to lap sitting. When passengers do not buckle up they face an elevated risk of being ejected from a vehicle or thrown forcefully into windows, doors, seats, and other car parts in the case of an accident.

However, what was most surprising from the I.I.H.S. study was the alarming number of rear seat fatalities and injuries involving passengers who actually were properly buckled up in the car.  When examining the types of in injuries recorded in the 117 rear seat crashes, the study found a significant difference in the way front and back seat restraints function that’s causing an elevated number of injuries for some passengers over others.

When a passenger is involved in an accident while sitting in the front seat, their seatbelt is designed to tighten around them upon impact for security, while the front and side airbags prevent them from slamming into the dashboard, steering wheel, or other objects in the car. These seatbelts also have force limiters installed to reduce the chance of chest injuries by these passengers.

In the back seat, occupants do not have as many protections. Seatbelts in the back do not come with force limiters, allowing the force of the seatbelt to cause severe injuries to the chest area of a rider. In the case of a side collision, passengers are protected by side airbags if their vehicle has them, but these do not always come standard. There is also no option to add front airbags for backseat passengers leaving them open to injuries from headrests, seat bodies, and other objects that may be located in front of them during a crash.

For decades, experts have been guiding parents to put their children in the rear seat whenever possible to keep them safe from airbag impacts and windshield injuries. The news from this study is extremely disheartening for parents, particularly those who have older children who have graduated from harnessed car seats.  Adults who frequently use ride-sharing options should also be concerned with these results. According to an article in WIRED, at least one-third of the American population has used ride-sharing and have been put at risk of injuries every time they set foot in the back seat of any vehicle due to poor design.

Most Common Backseat Injuries

The I.I.H.S. found that most occupants examined in the study commonly suffered from injuries to either the chest or head.  Chest injuries were reported in 22 of the injured occupants and were documented as significant injuries in 17 of the 37 fatalities that resulted from the pool of crash reports. These types of injuries may have included damage to the ribs such as bruising or fractures, or even more serious punctures of the ribs to the lungs or heart.

Head injuries were the second-most common type of injury found in the study, present in nine injured passengers and recorded as an injury in 18 fatality cases. When passengers hit their heads on the windows or seats, the impact can lead to traumatic brain injuries, memory loss, brain bleeds, and other cognitive difficulties from brain damage.

The Plan For Safer Rear Seating

The I.I.H.S. is confident that the results of the study will be enough to keep car manufacturers on their toes when it comes to passenger safety. Three solutions the organization included in their report suggest making the following safety changes to better protect rear seat passengers in a crash:

  • Install force limiters in the backseat to reduce chest impact and injuries.
  • Use an inflatable seatbelt design that can distribute the force of an impact across the torso instead of centering on the chest area.
  • Install a type of frontal airbag for backseat passengers to protect their head in the case of an accident.

How To Ride Safe In The Backseat

Until car manufacturers jump on board with creating more efficient restraints to keep backseat riders safe in an accident, taking preventative safety measures whenever you are riding is the only step to reduce the chance of injuries. Here are some safety tips provided by Kids Health to keep your passengers safe while riding:

  • Always wear a seatbelt when riding in the rear seat, regardless of how long the trip will be.
  • Only sit one passenger per seatbelt available.
  • Never share seatbelts. These devices are only meant for one individual and will not work right used incorrectly.
  • If your vehicle is older and has more than one seatbelt for a passenger (side and lap), make sure your passengers understand how they work.
  • Keep your passengers calm. Discourage roughhousing, jumping, yelling or other activities that could distract a driver or put them in a position where they could be severely injured in an accident.
  • Never lay down to sleep in the car. Your seat belt will not work properly when bent and take your seatbelt off to lay down, you could be ejected from the car in a crash.

For consumers looking to buy a new car, the I.I.H.S. study suggests going with a newer model for the most up to date safety features in seatbelts and side airbags for passengers.

Connecticut Motor Vehicle Accident Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident due to the careless acts of another driver, Jacobs & Wallace is here to fight for your rights and the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a FREE consultation and to discuss your options for seeking justice for your injuries.

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