Seat Back Failure Deaths and Injuries

Federal law makers are demanding changes to vehicle safety regulations in calling for an investigation into car makers regarding the seat back strength of their vehicles.  It has been known for years that car seats can fail in rear end collisions and lead to serious injuries or death.  Ongoing investigations have indentified more than a hundred cases where seat back collapse resulted in serious injuries or death to children riding in back seats.  Injury and death can also occur when seat backs fail and front seat occupants are thrown back, no longer restrained by their seat belts, hitting their heads on the rear seat receiving traumatic brain or paralyzing injuries.  The automotive industry has long known their seats do not hold up in many rear end collisions.  Ford and other automobile manufacturers have said that their seats meet or exceed federal standards however the Standard written in 1967 allows even a folding chair to pass.

Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Rep. Diane DeGette of Colorado have sent letters to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) demanding the agency “take immediate action to remedy this significant seating deficiency.”  As Senator Markey said “The gig is up”.  NHTSA should now “be forced to take action which they should have taken years ago.”  The Standard is out of date and must be updated to adequately protect back seat passengers and front seat passengers wrote the lawmakers in a letter to NHTSA Director Mark Rosekind.  Besides the one hundred or so cases noted above, the Center for Auto Safety found 3,455 injuries and 326 deaths listed in the early warning reporting system in which the seat was a contributing component to the injury or death.  It is assumed from research that almost all of those injuries were due to the seat failure in a rear collision.  Hopefully NHTSA will pay attention to these lawmakers’ concern and will update the 50 year old standard to reduce the dangers from rear end accidents.

The lawmakers have given Rosekind a deadline of December 14th to respond.