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New crash tests highlight need for safety measures for rear seat passengers

Changes are needed to improve safety for people who ride in the back seat of cars, according to new crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This comes as many of us are spending more time in the back seat in Uber or Lyft rides.

For years now, auto manufacturers have introduced new technology to help prevent injuries and deaths to people in the front seat in crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said because of that, the risk to those sitting in the back seat has actually increased.

“The rear seat is where we have some of our most vulnerable occupants,” IIHS President David Harkey said. “It’s where our children are often seated. It’s where we may have elderly persons in our family seated and it’s where many of us ride when we are taking ride-sharing services.”

IIHS updated its crash testing. Experts measured movement and injury risk to a dummy in the rear seat. It represents either a small woman or a 12-year-old child.

“Out of the fifteen small SUVs that we tested, nine of those were rated poor and only two of those got our best rating of good,” Harkey reported.

He said the fix is actually simple — put seat belt technology already required in the front seat, in the back seat, as well. IIHS recommends features called the crash tensioner and the load limiter. One pulls you back the instant a crash begins. The other allows the belt to relax a little to prevent excessive force on the chest.

These upgrades, though, could only be added when a car is initially manufactured.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation represents auto manufacturers. A spokesperson says it supports these belt enhancements in the back seat.

“Safety is the auto industry’s top priority,” she said in a statement. “Vehicles continue to get safer as automakers across the board test, develop and integrate promising new technologies to help prevent crashes and protect occupants in the event of a crash. While innovations continue to make the driving experience safer, seatbelts and seatbelt reminder systems are a critical safety component to today’s vehicles, and we encourage all occupants to ensure they are belted on every trip.”

“This will be a relatively cheap, marginal cost increase in the production of the vehicle and it certainly is one that we think is well worth it if you start saving lives and preventing injuries,” Harkey added.

Click here for the IIHS test results.

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