Imagine replacing your car seats with lawn chairs. Or cardboard. How safe would those changes be if you were in a rear-end crash? Safe enough according to the federal government! Rear Seat Danger Ignored by NHTSA.
Imagine replacing your car seats with lawn chairs. Or cardboard. How safe would those changes be if you were in a rear-end crash? Safe enough according to the federal government! Rear seat danger ignored by NHTSA.
The federal seat standard, adopted in 1967, is badly outdated. To make that point, safety engineers have run tests using the replacement seats mentioned above and shown that even they are sturdy enough to meet the half-century old standard.
According to Myron Levin of FairWarning.org, “For decades, safety regulators and the auto industry have known that many seats can fail in moderate- to high-speed rear-end crashes. When the seat collapses, the driver or front seat passenger can slide rearward out of the seat belt and be launched headfirst into the backseat, badly injuring a backseat passenger or being paralyzed or killed himself.”
If this comes as news to you, it is because the government’s auto safety watchdog, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has yet to publicize this information. This omission has drawn fire from nonprofit watchdogs such as the Center for Auto Safety. Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center, insists of the NHTSA, “They know the seatbacks have been collapsing for years. They know that if you put a kid behind an occupied seat, you’ve got a problem. And they’ve never shared that expertise with the public.”
Since the 1990’s, automakers and the government have been advising parents to seat small children in the back seat to avoid injury from inflating airbags. The possibility of serious injury as a result of a collapsing front seat in a rear-end collision would seem to require new warnings and precautions. Says Levin, “On March 9 the center filed a petition urging NHTSA to modify its child seating recommendations, and to require automakers to state in owner’s manuals that, whenever possible, children should sit behind an empty front seat or behind the lightest person. Such warnings are essential, the petition said, because of NHTSA’s decades-long failure to require sturdier seats that perform better in rear crashes.”
In addition to this petition, the Center for Auto Safety letter to NHTSA Administrator Mark R. Rosekind urging the agency to take action on a separate petition, filed in September of 2015, to upgrade its seatback standard.