Most of the new cars, pickup trucks and SUVs on sale in Texas and around the country have advanced safety systems to protect drivers and front-seat passengers, but few of them install these features in the rear of their vehicles. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently tested 15 compact SUVs to find out how well they would protect rear-seat passengers in a crash. Only two of the models earned the safety organization’s top rating. Nine of the SUVs tested were rated “poor”.
To evaluate rear-seat safety, the IIHS placed a hybrid crash test dummy about the size of a 12-year-old child on the SUVs’ rear outboard seats. They then examined the dummy to determine what kind of injuries a human would have suffered during front and side-impact collisions. The testers concluded that children traveling in the back of most of the SUVs would suffer serious head, chest and thigh injuries.
According to the IIHS, rear-seat passengers would fare far better in car accidents if auto makers installed safety features like adjustable head restraints and seat belt pretensioners in the back of vehicles. Seat belt pretensioners are connected to the same electronic system that deploys air bags, and they tighten automatically when a collision is imminent. In Europe, almost all rear-seat restraints have pretensioners.
Seat belt pretensioners can only save lives when vehicle occupants buckle up. Studies have found that passengers are far less likely to fasten their seat belts when they travel in the rear of vehicles, which is why they often suffer catastrophic accident injuries. This problem could be solved if carmakers install seat belt warnings in the back as well as the front and drivers make sure that all of their passengers are properly restrained before every trip.