Posted On May 25, 2016 In Personal Injury
Last week, we discussed how some child safety seats are sold with dangerous defects. If you are a parent, we have more troubling news involving car seat safety. Even normal car seats can carry significant risks for children.
Many vehicles have front seats that are at risk for failing during rear-end collisions (even ones with safety ratings of five stars). Seatback failures occur when front seats break and fly backwards during an accident, often where children are sitting.
The Center for Auto Safety, a consumer protection organization, has called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to address the problem by passing new seat strength standards. NHTSA currently uses seat strength standards from the 1960s, despite decades of evidence showing seatback failures have caused injuries or deaths. Even worse, NHTSA has claimed children are safest strapped into the backseats, the location where seatback failures cause the most damage.
In fact, children are at high risk of being injured or killed when seats fly backwards during collisions. We can use a recent example involving Audi to illustrate how children have been hurt by seatback failures.
A 7-year-old boy from San Antonio was left with a severe brain injury caused by a seatback failure. Like other seatback failures, the 7-year-old boy was crushed by the massive force of his father’s car seat propelling backwards during a rear-end collision. Now 11 years old, the boy suffers from partial paralysis and blindness. The boy’s family argues he will need care for the rest of his life.
A lawsuit filed by the boy’s family discovered Audi had designed its front seats to use backseat passengers as an extra layer of protection. When the case went to trial, a Texas jury ruled Audi was negligent.
Cases like these might have been prevented if automakers were required to make stronger car seats.
Regulators have known about seatback failures for decades. In 1992, NHTSA was warned by internal researchers that seats could collapse backwards and kill or injure passengers. CBS News ran its own investigation using former court cases and discovered 17 children had died from seatback failures over the last 15 years. Auto engineers who participated in prior lawsuits have argued preventing seatback failures would cost one dollar per vehicle.
If strengthening car seats is inexpensive, then what are regulators waiting for? NHTSA continues to maintain that it lacks the data needed to institute new regulations on strengthening seats. Current regulations require front seats to withstand 3,300 pounds of pressure during an accident. In Europe, similar regulations require front seats to withstand 4,691 pounds of pressure.
Until automakers make changes that will prevent car seats from failing during rear-end collisions, this hazard will continue to put families at risk.