Parents and the safety conscious have been told for decades that the safest place in the car was the back seat. However, years of focus on the front seat have changed things. Along with the usual array of airbags, there are also features like seat belts that tighten before impact and loosen if sensors (called load limiters) deem the belt to be burdened to the point where it could cause additional injury. These changes are prompting reevaluations of front seat safety versus back seat safety.

Now the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) recommends putting adults 55 and older in the front seat. According to an IIHS researcher, “There was evidence of significant seatbelt forces on the chest of occupants of all ages.” At this point, however, the IIHS still recommends putting children in the back.

Troubling for the future

The IIHS sees trouble in the fact that manufacturers have not focused equally on the rear seat safety measures. This is in light of the recent increase in back seat usage. Examples include:

  • The rise of Uber and Lyft have put millions more people in the back seat.
  • These car services are increasingly patronized by the elderly.
  • Carpooling is more common in private vehicles.
  • Car-sharing and short-term rentals often carry higher numbers of riders.
  • Autonomous driving vehicles likely will see more passengers in the back seat.

The IIHS says that there are plans for back-seat crash tests in the coming years, with none currently done by manufacturers. Nevertheless, manufacturers have heard this criticism and are beginning to install safety belts with load limiters and other advantages to improve back seat safety in new models.

Back seats injuries pose unique challenges

Those injured in the back seat of a car, truck or SUV are advised to contact an experienced personal injury attorney. These legal professionals can help victims in car crashes, especially if there are circumstances unique to sitting in the back seat.