The development of safety features like airbags and inertia-reel seatbelts has made getting behind the wheel in Minnesota far less risky. Modern cars, pickup trucks and SUVs are crammed with devices and equipment to protect drivers and front-seat passengers in a crash, but the results of a 2019 study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggest that auto manufacturers could do more to prevent rear-seat passenger injuries.
Killed while wearing seat belts
The IIHS wanted to find out how rear-seat passengers who fasten their safety belts fare in crashes. Researchers studied 117 accidents in which properly restrained rear-seat passengers were either killed or seriously injured by scrutinizing police reports, photographs, autopsy findings and medical records. They determined that most of the rear-seat passengers would have survived if the vehicles they were traveling in were equipped with more advanced restraint systems. The researchers also noticed that the rear-seat passengers in these accidents often suffered more serious injuries than those riding in the front.
According to the IIHS, the drivers and front-seat passengers suffered less severe injuries because they were restrained by seat belts that had crash tensioners and force limiters. These devices allow seat belts to unspool a few inches in a crash and then tighten to hold vehicle occupants firmly in place. Many of the rear-seat passengers who died suffered head or chest injuries that would have been prevented by force limiters. Studies like the one conducted by the IIHS can be used by auto manufacturers to improve safety features and crash survivability, and they could help personal injury attorneys to prove accidents were preventable.
Suing reckless drivers
Rear-seat passengers who suffer injuries in car accidents may take legal action against the person who was behind the wheel if they engaged in reckless behavior like using a cellphone or exceeding the posted speed limit. When litigating such a case, experienced personal injury attorneys could seek damages to compensate rear-seat passengers for their medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost income.