For years, we have been told that the back seat is safest for passengers during an automobile accident. However, a new study, conducted by researchers from the Neuroscience Research Australia center in Sydney challenges that theory and provides some fairly convincing information. Yet should it really change where we place our passengers (particularly children)? Although the verdict is still out, the real answer is probably not.
Seat Belts Now Most Common Cause of Injury for Rear Passengers
Automobile safety features ranging from airbags to crumple zones have drastically increased driver and passenger safety over the last couple of decades. Unfortunately, those technologies have also brought to light a painful realization—seat belts, which are intended to save lives, actually cause quite a few injuries. Those injuries, and how they were caused, were the focus of the recent study.
Seat Belt Injury Analysis
To determine how seat belts were contributing to accidents, researchers analyzed the crash information for 29 people between the ages of nine and 80 years old. Median age of all passengers fell around 30, and the cars that were involved ranged in model year from 1989 to 2010. All were rear passengers in a vehicle, and all but two were wearing a three-point harness seat belt at the time of the crash.
Based on the study's analysis, chest injuries involving fractures of the ribs or sternum were the most commonly sustained injuries by individuals over the age of 50. The most common injury for those under the age of 50 involved abdominal injuries. Head injuries were much less frequent, were only seen in passengers under the age of 15, and typically involved collisions with the front seat head rest or the window frame's supporting pillar. Spinal fractures were most commonly seen during high-speed crashes.
Nothing in the study, however, indicates that drivers or passengers should stop wearing seat belts. In fact, even after factoring in the potential risk of injury, seat belts continue to save more lives than they take. Additionally, despite the fact that injuries do happen, at least in part because seat belts have undergone few changes over the years, researchers say that the real problem can be found in how people use these devices.
In many cases, drivers or passengers may attempt to modify their seat belt or will wear them in a way they were not designed to be used—placing the chest strap behind them and wearing only the lap portion, for example. To reduce the risk of injury from this problematic issue, consumers should always ensure a seat belt fits correctly. The lap belt should be low and snug on the hips while the shoulder strap should cross across the mid-chest and clavicle. Passengers should also sit against the back of the seat and avoid slouching.
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