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IIHS: rear-seat safety falls behind front-seat safety

Drivers in West Virginia may own a vehicle with all the latest crash mitigation technology. However, they may not realize that this tech usually only benefits front-seat occupants. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is calling for automakers to enhance the safety of rear-seat occupants as well. This technology includes air bags and crash tensioners, which tighten seat belts in a crash.

The IIHS has studied some 117 crashes involving the death or serious injury of a (belted) rear-seat passenger aged 6 or older. Taking the findings from this analysis, the IIHS will develop new crash testing as a way to demonstrate the need for rear-seat safety.

One finding of the study was that a third of the rear-seat passengers suffered chest injuries. These can be prevented or reduced in severity through the use of force limiters, which let some of the seat belt's webbing spool out in a crash. In addition, nine of the hurt passengers and 18 of those who died incurred a head injury.

Rear seats present a unique challenge to vehicle designers. Whereas front seats always have at least one passenger (the driver), back seats can seat anyone and anything, including pets and cargo. Because rear seats have traditionally been safer, fewer passengers in the rear wear their seat belts.

In the event that injured rear-seat passengers want to file a claim, they should know that there must be evidence of negligent driving by one of the parties involved. This could be anything from speeding to distracted or drowsy driving. Filing a claim against a driver's insurance company can be complicated, and victims may face strong opposition from the company's legal team. Therefore, it may be wise to hire a lawyer, too. Legal counsel could handle all negotiations for a fair settlement out of court.

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