Driving is a huge responsibility. When someone steps into your car as a passenger, they are entrusting you with their life. This may sound dramatic, but it is the simple truth. While cars are arguably safer now than they have ever been, many advocacy groups claim that technology has yet to catch up to keep rear-seat passengers safe.
This is especially true with the rise of rideshare services like Lyft and Uber. In fact, studies have shown that rear-seat passengers are less likely to wear their seat belts in hired vehicles than they are in privately owned cars. This could be due to the fact that passengers feel more casual (and thus, more cavalier) in a ride they have paid for, rather than one they are receiving from a friend or loved one.
In any case, it is readily apparent how this could raise some issues. While airbags and seat belts do much to reduce the likelihood of serious injury or death, car manufacturers still have some ways to go before optimizing their vehicles for passenger safety. That is why the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has been working on developing necessary crash testing to demonstrate safety concerns.
These new developments should be of great interest to both drivers and passengers alike. After all, in this day and age, it is difficult to find someone who is not in a vehicle at least once a day. Nobody should have to live in fear that they will not get from point A to point B safely. Education is among the greatest forms of self-empowerment. In this blog post, we will give you a brief overview of the IIHS’ findings and what potential changes might need to be made in order to keep passengers safe.
Obviously, drivers must sit at the front of the car. This is part of the reason why front seat safety is so much more advanced than rear seat safety. In fact, front-seat safety has seen decades of progress—more than anyone could truthfully say for rear-seat safety. Many of the archetypal images that come to mind when you hear about vehicular safety actually only apply to front seats.
For example, did you know that rear seats and front seats are typically equipped with different airbags? While front-seat passengers can generally rest assured that their airbags will protect them from a frontal collision, rear-seat passengers often have to make do with only side-curtain airbags. These airbags are designed specifically to reduce trauma from side-impact crashes only. This is especially dangerous for rear-seat passengers who sit in the middle seat.
Front seat passengers are also protected by things called pretensioners and load-limiters. Such devices are similar to airbags in that they are triggered by crash sensors. In the event of a crash, pretensioners act to pull seat belts tight. This has the effect of keeping the body taut against the seat to limit its contact with other parts of the car. At the same time, load-limiters work to spool out an appropriate amount of slack in the seat belt while the crash is happening. This has the effect of ensuring that the body does not suffer any injury-causing force.
In their recent research of real-world crashes, the IIHS found that chest injuries were the most common type of injury inflicted upon rear-seat passengers. Rear seat passengers, in general, tended to suffer more serious injuries than front-seat passengers, which may suggest that rear-seat seatbelts need to be redesigned entirely.
This assumption is certainly not totally unfounded. In fact, after delving deeply into autopsy records, crash investigations, photographs, and police and/or medical records, IIHS researchers found that rear-seat passengers’ injuries could be mostly attributed to the seat belt pressing against the body. This, in combination with the great force of a cause, can prove to be a deadly combination.
Emily Thomas, Ph.D., is an automotive safety engineer at Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center. In a Consumer Reports article, she illustrated the seriousness of the situation by pointing out the growing prevalence of ride-share services like Lyft and Uber. These services, while certainly convenient, frequently end up putting passengers in the rear seat.
“Seat belts do a great job at saving lives,” Thomas says, “and when integrated with additional technologies such as pretensioners and load-limiters, they can further reduce the risk of injury. That’s why now more than ever it’s important that we focus on bringing the rear set up to the same safety standards of the front seat.”
From all this evidence, it is clear to see that rear-seat seatbelts require a total and complete redesign, first and foremost. The technology is certainly available to the auto manufacturers. After all, pretensioners and load-limiters are basically standard in many front seats in many vehicles. The IIHS also suggests airbags that come down from the roof as another possibility to consider.
A few manufacturers, such as Ford and Mercedes-Benz, already offer some advanced rear-seat seatbelt safety designs. One such example is the inflatable seat belt. You can think of the inflatable seat belt as a sort of skinny airbag. This special type of seat belt inflates only during a crash, allowing the force to be spread over a larger part of the body. This may prevent the passenger from suffering any concentrated injury. Making such devices commonplace could do wonders to prevent passenger injury.
If you or a loved one have recently been involved in a car accident, we at Injury Victim Law may be able to help. Though we are a Colorado-based firm, our team of experts and investigators is ready and available to assist personal injury victims all across the country. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our trusted nationwide personal injury attorneys. You should never have to pay for somebody else’s mistakes. Let us fight for you and get you the compensation you deserve.