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Why Sitting in Back Isn’t So Safe

Written by Ankin Law Office

In a car crash, sitting in the back seat can be more dangerous than sitting in the front seat. Recent studies show that backseat passengers are 46 percent more likely to die in motor vehicle accidents than front seat drivers and passengers.

Why is the Back Seat So Dangerous?

Over the past decade, front seat safety for drivers and passengers has improved due to advances in safety measures like increased structural changes, electronic stability controls, and side airbags. However, safety for backseat passengers has not advanced at the same rate. Fatality rates seen by an auto accident attorney for front seat drivers and passengers have fallen significantly, while fatality rates for back seat passengers have actually increased. According to recent studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, backseat passengers are 46 percent more likely to be killed in a car crash than front seat drivers and passengers. While studies point out that the backseat is still the safest place for children under the age of 13, they also point out that the risk of death to backseat passengers increases with the age of the passengers.

Back Seat Safety

According to auto safety studies, many people fail to buckle their seat belts when they ride in the back seat, especially when traveling in rental vehicles, ride share vehicles, taxis, limousines, and vans. Most people make it a point to buckle up in the front seat, often because it is the law, but seat belt laws do not apply to the back seat. Most newer model cars have a repeating sound that reminds front seat passengers to fasten their seatbelts, but no such sound is activated if backseat passengers don’t buckle up. Comfort is also a factor when riding in the back seat. Many cars have three seat belts in the back, which are less comfortable and awkward to use, so many people choose not to buckle up at all.

If a passenger isn’t wearing a seatbelt in a car accident, he/she can sustain serious injuries, even when traveling at slow speeds. An auto accident attorney, as well as hospital emergency rooms, commonly see backseat passengers who suffer serious facial lacerations, head and neck injuries, chest injuries, and broken bones caused by slamming into the back of a front seat or partition that divides the front and back seat areas.

Accidents and Injuries

In 2015, two high-profile deaths emphasized the dangers for backseat passengers in a crash. Bob Simon, a well-known 60 Minutes correspondent, died in a taxi crash in Manhattan. When thrown out of the backseat on impact, he suffered severe head trauma and a broken neck. John Forbes Nash Jr., the Princeton University mathematician that inspired the film A Beautiful Mind, died when he was thrown from the backseat in a car crash in New Jersey. Neither Bob Simon, age 73, or John Forbes Nash Jr., age 86, were wearing seatbelts. Studies show that adults who are 55 years of age or older are more likely to die from backseat injuries, even when properly bucked up.

Seat belts are an important factor in reducing car crash injuries and fatalities commonly seen by an auto accident attorney. Although seat belts may not totally prevent injuries, they will prevent passengers from being thrown from the vehicle in a crash; one of the deadliest outcomes. In 2012, 79 percent of passengers who were ejected from a motor vehicle in a crash were killed. According to the NHTSA, 30 percent of unrestrained passengers are ejected from a vehicle upon crash impact, compared to one percent who are wearing seat belts.

Illinois Personal Injury Claims

In Illinois, auto accident injuries fall under the category of personal injuries. If a fatality occurs, wrongful death may be established if negligence is proven. Lawsuits are handled by the state’s civil court system. In Illinois, the statute of limitations to file a personal injury lawsuit with an auto accident lawyer is two years. The two-year time limit begins to run on the date of the accident in most cases. In some cases, the statute of limitations may begin on the date the injury is discovered, rather than the actual injury date. If a personal injury claim is filed against a specific city or county in Illinois, there is a one-year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit. If a personal injury claim is filed against the state, a formal claim must be filed within one year, but there is a two-year time limit to file a lawsuit.

Illinois courts are required to apply the state’s comparative fault rule when more than one party is at fault for an injury. If there are two or more responsible parties, Illinois courts apply the state’s “modified comparative fault” rule to calculate accident and injury damages.

Categories: Auto Accidents