You may be seeing news headlines about a new project to research the safety of rear seat occupants. Unfortunately, some media outlets have misinterpreted the intent of the study and have some very misleading headlines. “Study shows the back seat may not be the safest place for your child in a front-end collision,” says NBC News and some of its affiliates. Though new studies sometimes do contradict old research, that is not the current intent of this new paper from the IIHS.
Now consider the headline of the IIHS press release, “Rear-seat occupant protection hasn’t kept pace with the front.” In fact, that is exactly the purpose of this new project. The IIHS is developing a new crash test to help promote improvements in safety for rear seat occupants. This study was not designed and likely does not have enough statistical information to change our current recommendation to keep all children 12 and under in the back seat whenever possible.
According to Russ Rader, Senior Vice President of Communications at the IIHS:
While we looked at real-world cases involving occupants age 6 and older, the focus is on adult passengers because they appear to be the most vulnerable to seat belt-related injuries to the chest, especially the oldest occupants. The long-standing recommendation to parents hasn’t changed: The back seat is still overall the safest place for properly restrained children to ride.
It is important to point out that in a study like this we seek out the cases where people were seriously injured in order to understand what engineering changes might have affected the outcome. It is also important to look at the entire population that could be affected by any changes in order to make sure that solutions for older vulnerable occupants do not negatively impact children.
Be a smart consumer of news and know that the media is trying to draw your attention. When it comes to the safety of your child, find all the facts before making any decisions. Please keep your children age 12 and under properly restrained in the back seat if at all possible! If you have no other option than to place a child in the front passenger seat, please feel free to contact us through our facebook page or talk any child passenger safety technician for safest practice recommendations! If best practice advice ever changes in the future, we will be sure to inform you, as will the IIHS, NHTSA and other occupant safety agencies.