In an ongoing effort to improve the safety of motor vehicles and reduce the occurrence of injuries from car accidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration continually updates its safety requirements, most recently with the stricter crash testing standards and procedures. However, there is one standard that has not been updated in over 40 years, and advocates say that it is causing severe brain injuries in backseat passengers, most of whom are children.
The back seat has long been considered the safest place in a vehicle for children, especially as vehicle safety has improved to protect them. However, according to lawsuits filed across the country, several children have suffered severe brain injuries when the driver's or front passenger's seat crumples or collapses and catapults the front passenger into the back seat, often directly into a child in a car seat.
There is no federal vehicle standard that specifically addresses the safety of back seat passengers in the event that a motor vehicle accident causes the collapse of a front seat. The most relevant safety standard, which regulates seat back strength, was put in place in 1968 and has not been updated since. In a recent lawsuit, plaintiff's witness and engineer Lou D'Aurelio testified that he had simulated the 1968 test with a lawn chair and a cardboard. Both passed.
Because of the lack of requirements and regulations for front seat back strength, D'Aurelio says, children will continue to be injured. "Either the seat or the body, the head, or both are going to smack into whoever is sitting behind them. Most of the time, these days, that's going to be a child," he said.
Source: NBC, "Collapsing Car Seats Blamed for Injuring Passengers", Lisa Parker, 10 November 2010